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Dr. Angela Coaxum-Young Builds on Booker T. Washington High School's Proud Legacy

On October 4, Neil Shorthouse introduced Dr. Angela Coaxum-Young as our speaker. She is the new and totally dedicated principal at Booker Taliaferro Washington High School. She reported the beginnings of BTWHS date to the early 1870s during the Reconstruction Era when Amendments to the US Constitution were passed; including the 13th ending slavery, the 14th granting the right to due process, and the the 15th, stating that the right to vote of all men could not be denied on the basis of race, color or previous condition of slavery. But it still took 48 more years to launch public education for blacks. In 1924 BTW school opened with 4,000 students, as blacks flocked to Atlanta for learning. So for 95 years the name Booker T. Washington has meant the opportunity for an education – middle school and high school – for black children. This is a point that Dr. Young strenuously emphasizes to her students, to know more of their impressive heritage. But she faces a huge challenge. She says the literacy rates are alarmingly low, with 70% of her BTWHS students not reading at grade level, some very far below. This represents a fact of adversity visited upon so many children and families. These low reading scores have their roots in ages zero to five – with children not getting sufficient exposure and a sustained commitment to learning. She explained that when early learning is lacking, deficits grow leading to a negative chain reaction including grade retention, which leads to despair. Her quest is to enable proficiency for all children, so she and her faculty meet children where they are: with phonics, aggressive remediation, or weekend instruction. In this way she promotes the legacy of her institution as the way to true liberation – meeting students at their point of need – through learning. Dr. Young in stating her resolve to enable a rapid rise in academic achievement said she does not have four years to do this. This learning turn-around must take off immediately … and it is possible given the dedication and skills of her staff members. She knows this turn-around means hundreds escaping a destiny of mediocrity - it’s the only way. Accompanying Dr. Young was Dr. Erica Clark who was quick to thank AWER Members for the classy polo shirts purchased by AWER for all incoming freshman, which she unveiled. She also noted the need for financial support to enable all 9th graders to visit Tuskegee University, which will be raised at the True Blue Gala fundraiser on March 27th next year. Dr. Young ended with gratitude for the enthusiasm of the BTWHS alumni, noting AWER’s own Ms. Frances Ellison-Dansby as a member, who are raising money and promoting a resurgence of the school’s PTA.

Posted by Neil Shorthouse
October 4, 2019 2:00pm

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