Dec. 6: Celebrating Success with Hollis Innovation Academy

Wykeisha Howe leads Summit attendees in a devotion.

The Dec. 6 Transform Westside Summit – the last event of 2019 – kicked off with a devotion led by Wykeisha Howe. Born and raised in the Westside, Howe serves as the vice president of Hollis Innovation Academy PTA, vice president of Atlanta District 10 Council and vice-chair of Sisters with Voices. She gave a powerful call to action reminding each of us how important it is to advocate for and serve one another.

Hollis Innovation Academy: Facts and Student Voices

The Summit’s main presentation featured a progress update from Hollis Innovation Academy, located in Vine City. Only 3 years old, Hollis Innovation Academy serves students from pre-K through eighth grade. The school’s STEAM-focused curriculum helps students build a strong foundation before high school and ultimately their careers. Hollis is also supported by many committed partners, including the Georgia Tech Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing.

Dr. Ford, Sylvia Russell and other members of the Go Team smile for a photo.

Dr. Diamond Ford serves as the principal of Hollis Innovation Academy. To kick off her presentation, Dr. Ford chose to let her students speak for themselves. After an exciting performance by the Hollis Drum Line, several students took the stage to dispel myths and share facts about their school.

Audience members and proud Hollis parents engage during the presentation.

Because it’s so unique, many people think Hollis is a charter school. However, the truth is Hollis is just like any other school but with high outcomes, unique experiences and a lot of community support, according to students.

Another fact? Hollis Innovation Academy makes it a point to engage students around issues that impact real human lives. As a fifth-grade student shared, he started out his school year with an in-depth unit around social justice and human rights issues, centered around the novel “Esperanza Risingwritten by Pam Munoz Ryan.

An Update from Dr. Diamond Ford

Dr. Ford discusses the success of her school over the past year.

When the decision was made to open Hollis Innovation Academy, Dr. Ford was the clear leader to help it grow and become the pillar of the Westside that it is today.

Westside Future Fund’s Cradle to Career strategy is the spirit behind Hollis’ many strategic partnerships. Together with several other key organizations and community leaders, Hollis has seen incredible results.

Westside Future Fund CEO John Ahmann discusses his organization’s impact strategy surrounding Cradle to Career Education.

Some of these successes include:

  • Hollis Innovation Academy is no longer considered a turnaround school.
  • The percentage of students performing at proficient or above in key areas, such as language arts and math, has doubled since the 2016-17 school year.
  • The Academy’s College and Career Ready Performance Index has increased from 39.7 in 2016 to 62.6 in 2019.

For more information, check out the Atlanta Public School Annual Report.

Q&A with Dr. Ford

Dr. Ford engaged with Summit attendees and answered questions before, during and after her presentation.

Q: What is the strategy around the after-school programming at Hollis?

A: Global Tech Academy is the provider of our after-school programming. The strategy with that partnership is to support our mission and vision around tapping into unique talents. The after-school program is centered around enrichment and helping kids tap into their strengths.

Q: How can we support you and the kids as they become more civically engaged in the community?

A: We are really aimed at helping our kids become socially conscious. As an example, you may recall the unit around “Esperanza Risingthat was mentioned earlier. The things that I would really like the community to support are field studies and partnering in that way.

Audience members engage in the presentation, asking Dr. Ford questions about Hollis.

Q: Can you talk about your plans for special needs children?

A: I have two nephews who are autistic – one who is nonverbal and one who has many challenges socially. Mrs. Riggins, on my team, keeps these issues at the top of her mind, as well, and we look for ways to engage the parents of kids with special needs. I’ve watched my nephew change schools multiple times because of his special needs and that’s frustrating. Our goal is to be a school that can accommodate students with special needs and keep those students there. We also strive to teach students to respect differences and to respect one another through guest speakers and inclusive events.

Additional Summit Highlights

  • Next Summit:The first Summit of 2020 will be on Friday, Jan. 17. Register here.
  • Free shuttle to the Summit:The Cute Shuttle offers free, scheduled pickups on the Westside to help residents get to and from Summit events on the first and third Fridays of the month. Learn more.
  • The Home Depot Gift Card Raffle:Summit attendees who are current Westside residents or who work for a nonprofit serving Westside neighborhoods have a chance to win a $50 gift card from The Home Depot at each Summit event. Congratulations to Hollis third grader Thailand Bellile, the Dec. 6 winner, pictured below.

Bellile smiles with his gift card from The Home Depot

Meeting Materials:

Transform Westside Summit – December 7 2019

Dec. 6 Agenda Devotion: Wykeisha Howe, Vice President, Hollis Innovation Academy PTA; Vice President, Atlanta District 10 Council; Vice-Chair, Sisters with Voices Featured Presentation: Dr. Diamond Ford, Principal, Hollis Innovation Academy _________________________________ The Transform Westside Summit is held on the first and third Friday of each month and is free and open to the public. Meetings begin promptly at 7:15 a.m. with a morning devotion* and complimentary breakfast, provided by Summit sponsor Chick-fil-A. *Many in our community are driven by their spiritual faith to participate in the Westside revitalization effort. The time at the beginning of our meetings is an opportunity to share various inspirational reflections. While the speakers may articulate their personal faith, it is meant to be inclusive, inspiring and meaningful. All are welcome.

Posted by Westside Future Fund on Friday, December 6, 2019