April 1st Transform Westside Summit: Peace Prep Academy and Its Impact on the Westside
Westside Future Fund’s April 1st Transform Westside Summit highlighted Peace Prep Academy’s impact in educating Historic Westside students mentally and emotionally while also offering affordable housing to the families of enrollees. Featured guests included Benjamin Wills, Founder & Head of School, PPA; and Matt Maxwell, Director of Community Development, PPA. WFF President & CEO, John Ahmann joined co-hosts Ebony Ford and Benjamin Earley in opening the event which once again welcomes in-person attendance. Derrick Jordan, Real Estate Contractor for the Home On The Westside Program, went on to moderate the panel discussion.
Jordan, a board member at key Peace Prep partner, oaksATL, spoke highly of his experience touring the campus and meeting some of the students:
Jordan: “These kids run up to me, and they shook my hand—give me a good handshake too…look me in the eyes and say ‘hello’. I felt like I belong and I knew I was in the right place. It’s a credit to the work of Benjamin and Matt and their work throughout. I really, really appreciate that.”
Derrick Jordan reflects on his interactions with the students of Peace Prep Academy.
Jordan: “What is different about Peace Prep as far as the education—what is different as opposed to what another school would offer?”
Benjamin Wills speaks to PPA’s vision and mission in the English Avenue community.
It’s the holistic approach. It’s taking all three together. It is saying children matter. Children are rooted in families and families matter. Families are rooted in communities and communities matter. And so, it’s looking at education through the lens of all three of those things, as opposed to just one or the other. It’s a collaborative approach to education that looks at people and says, ‘you’re made in God’s image.'”
–Benjamin Wills, Founder & Head of School, Peace Preparatory Academy
PPA partners with oaksATL to offer affordable housing to keep students and their families in the community.
Wills: “Our big heart and desire is to have a physical representation of the hope of our community in that building. A 35,000 square foot facility that would have pre-k through 12th grade classrooms; a gym; a commercial kitchen; media center; community space.”
Entrance to PPA.
Jordan: “What’s the why behind Oaks ATL? How do you measure success in what you do?”
Maxwell: “God’s really given us this vision that God is going to raise up young men and women in the neighborhood, and they will become oaks of righteousness, and they will be planted in the community…They would be the ones that renew, restore and rebuild the communities that have been devastated for generations. They would replace me as the leader of oaksATL. They would replace Benjamin as the head of the school. And, they would live in the neighborhood and become the leaders in the neighborhood.”
Future leaders of the Historic Westside Community.
Wills: “If you say, well we’re going to educate whole kids, support whole families and provide growth and change opportunities for whole communities, then you need to do something behind that. So, oaksATL is about the doing of that whole community piece. And so, it’s saying we’re not just going to talk about this, we’re going to systematically address it.”
(From left) Derrick Jordan, Matt Maxwell & Benjamin Wills discuss impacting generations on the Westside.
Following a recent tragedy where a student was killed off campus, Benjamin Wills spoke to the unique challenges that come with leadership in the school’s community.
Wills: “How do we institutionalize hope? How do we institutionalize belonging? How do we institutionalize love? How do we institutionalize these fruits of God’s spirit? How do we call people into this bigger vision? And, so there’s much more than what’s on the surface. And, how do you stand up and walk in that faithfully every day?”
Matt Maxwell urges community unification in the quest for affordable, equitable housing on the Westside.
When asked of any special wishes, Maxwell had input on how the different leadership tiers of the community could address issues for residents.
Maxwell: “Praying and asking God for more of a sense of unity and participation in seeing the greater good of the work that we do, and bringing people together to do it further. I know you [Derrick Jordan] experienced it on projects that you’re working on. It’s just really hard to get things going, and I know we all want to see Atlanta thrive, no matter what economic backgrounds, education background, or race. We all want to see people come together and thrive, and I’m just really praying for unity.”
View the full summit including the audience Q&A below!