In the library of Booker T. Washington High School, the oldest Black high school in the state, sat over 50 members of the community gathered there to hear about how they could help heal Atlanta’s Westside. Booker T. Washington High School is nestled in the heart of the Vine City neighborhood, servicing an average of 550 students this year. The school has seen better days. 

“Washington High School has graduated some of the greatest minds of  our times. Our students just need support and our families need resources,” said Davida Huntley, an alumnus. “Homelessness was a huge factor for our families before the pandemic, imagine where we are now.” 

As the neighborhood changes, for better or worse, so does the governing of the school. Entering into the first full year since the global pandemic began, Washington students have struggled like many other schools to live up to its historical legacy. Under new leadership under principal William C. Wade, Washington is on a path to close the achievement gap, increase teacher performance, and lower its dropout rate. 

This community meeting was hosted by Washington alumni council member Byron Amos and moderated by Benjamin Early.

“It’s clear that the community wants to be a part of this process to get our students back on track,” explains Huntley. “I could have cried to see that many people show up for a meeting at Washington High School.”

The students at Washington, like so many others throughout the country, have been suffering from the social-emotional effects that the pandemic exposed. Tied to the generational wealth gap of the community and the lack of resources for the families, Wade seeks to understand the struggles of each family with empathy and applied work to ensure that his students see brighter days. 

As a start, this community meeting was one of many that have already proven to bear fruit. Less than 24 hours after the meeting Monday night each attendee received an email with the next meeting date is Wednesday, October 19th from 6pm-8pm in the media center at Washington High School. This will be a working meeting so all are asked to come full of ideas and execution strategies. Attendees were also sent a list of resources in a follow up email in order to seek partnership opportunities and support services for families in need.