It Takes a Village, and for Rushie Bonner, the Westside is Her Village
Longtime Vine City resident Rushie Bonner and her husband, Reginald, are the proud parents of five beautiful children, including four daughters and one son. They have been together for 15 years, married for 9 years, and are building a beautiful life for their family on the Westside. However, she worries that the increased development will price her out of the neighborhood she has called home for 15 years. Rushie is acutely aware that while positive change is happening on the Westside, the change comes with a threat of displacement for her family and many of her neighbors.
Rushie now rents through Westside Future Fund’s Home on the Westside, part of the organization’s commitment to community retention. Because of this program, Rushie can remain deeply invested in her community.
Rushie Bonner is a proud member of her Westside community.
Her motto is “focus on the youth!” She volunteers at Hollis Innovation Academy, where two of her children are enrolled. Thanks to a unique partnership between Westside Future Fund and Atlanta Public Schools which is helping bring more resources to increase student achievement, her children benefit from smaller class sizes with caring teachers and wraparound services that address the needs and wellbeing of the whole family.
“Hollis is a great school – they have so many great programs for the kids,” she said, referencing a collaboration with the Atlanta Ballet, as well as new football and basketball programs. Rushie also cited a recent $1 million renovation that funded an in-school clinic where students can go to get a physical, vaccinations or even see a dentist. “It’s so convenient,” she said. “They also have a food pantry, and they give away jackets, hats, scarves and gloves for the winter.”
She’s also happy about the new At-Promise Center’s youth programming facility operated by the Atlanta Police Foundation and the YMCA of Metro Atlanta’s state-of-the-art Arthur M. Blank Early Learning Center located right in the heart of her Vine City community.
“One day I want to host educational programs at the YMCA,” Rushie said. “Some of these kids have dreams beyond just staying in the hood. There are a lot of kids in my community that have dreams but don’t have the opportunities that would push them toward their dreams. I want to start a program in the community for kids with dreams.”
Rushie (far right) sits on a panel for the Oct. 4 WFF Transform Westside Summit about Home on the Westside alongside Leslie Canty, Ebony Ford, Joan Vernon and Regina Grant.
The desire to help kids pursue their dreams is deeply personal for Rushie. She remembers growing up wanting to become a doctor or a teacher but lacking the opportunities she needed to achieve those goals. “A lot of kids go the athletic route, but not every kid is athletic,” she said.
Her son Arthur, for example, is an aspiring robotics engineer, currently enrolled in a collaborative program through Hollis Innovation Academy and Georgia Tech. “If he could go to college right now as a 13-year-old, he would,” she smiled.
Arthur isn’t the only ambitious one in the family. Reginald has a high school diploma and was a manager of Pizza Hut for five years. His income wasn’t enough to support their family, so he looked for a better option. He got a scaffolding job and has maintained two jobs over the last four years. His first job is with Brandsafway Scaffolding Company in Kennesaw, Ga., where he is a scaffold builder helper and a grounds builder. His second job is as an armed security guard.
Rushie also enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at the Covenant CNA School, part of the Workforce Innovation Lab at the City of Refuge serving Westside residents. It wasn’t easy being a student while taking care of her family, but Rushie credits the support of her “village” including her coach and mentor, Ericka Hill, for helping her to overcome these challenges and to graduate on time.
Rushie proudly displays her certificate of clinical excellence.
“It’s hard for me to stick with one thing if it’s not about my kids,” she said, “but my kids are my motivation. I gave myself an ultimatum and just went with it. Now I have a medical degree and have completed 121 hours at a medical facility. At the end of the day, we as women have to find our place in the world while still raising our families.”
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Westside Future Fund and its partners, Rushie is building a brighter future for her family.
“You know how they say it takes a village to raise a kid?” Rushie asked. “The Westside is that village. If you’re a single mom, don’t have a job, are really struggling or don’t have anywhere to fit in, you can always fit in here on the Westside. There’s a lot of help and support here.”
For Rushie, that’s what makes the Westside home.
“Home to me is walking down the street, knowing every person on my street by name and having them know my kids,” she said. “You may work your whole 8-hour day and not one person asks you how you’re doing. To come home and have your neighbor ask you how your day was – it just feels good. Because you feel like you’re at home.”
Rushie smiles with Ericka Hill.
Vine City and Atlanta’s Historic Westside, according to Rushie, is the best place you can live, and the Westside Future Fund is determined to enable longtime residents like Rushie to stay in the communities they love.
Home on the Westside implementation partners include On the Rise Financial Center, CHRIS 180, the Atlanta-Police Foundation and Quest Communities. To find out more about the resources offered through Home on the Westside, visit the website: www.westsidefuturefund.org/homeonthewestside.