The Wilson Academy in Lithonia, Georgia, was founded by Byron F. Wilson in 2002. His mission was to provide a solution to a major problem in the Black community: a lack of resources for students. The school offers a quality, private education at an affordable price. Since its founding, the academy has achieved a 100 percent graduation rate, and its graduates have earned millions of dollars in college scholarships.
Rolling out recently spoke to Wilson about his vision of educating the next generation.
Define your mission in creating The Wilson Academy?
Our mission was simple. We wanted to create a truly elite academic program that is not only in our community, but one that is also owned and operated by those from our community. We cannot wait for those outside of our communities to solve our problems for us, nor should we expect them to.
Describe the families and groups that your school serves.
We are a reflection of the community in which we are located. We primarily serve middle- to upper-middle income Black families. Specifically, our school serves males and females in grades four through 12, with plans to extend to a full K-12 program gradually over the next few years.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges in the Black community with education, and what are three solutions you can provide to eliminate these issues?
The biggest challenge we have is that we have adopted a culture that is not conducive to academic success or much other success, for that matter. We’ve bought into the narrative that we are all supposed to be athletes and entertainers. We’ve bought into the narrative that it’s okay that we struggle in math. We’ve bought into the narrative that our HBCUs aren’t good enough. We’ve bought into a culture that actually brags about how much money we spend rather than what assets we own. We have to get our young people to fall in love with Black: fall in love with Black culture, traditions and our true African heritage.
Here are three solutions we implement at The Wilson Academy:
Teach our students their true history. If you knew you were a king, you wouldn’t be so quick to act like a joker. We don’t have to teach Black history; all we have to do is teach true history.
Change the financial narrative. We teach students to become wealthy, not to become super-consumers. We have to talk about how money works, how it should work for you, what is its purpose, etcetera.
Exposure. It’s hard to aspire to something when you don’t know it exists.
What at-home activities and tips would you share with parents?
The key is establishing certain core values and making sure those values are applied to everything the child does. Whether they are in the classroom or on a field, my message is “work harder than everyone else, feel like no one can beat you, be prepared, organized, and on time and never let anyone make you feel bad about yourself.”