But, every so often we come across a different kind of venture that we just can’t help but write about. Last month I attended the Demo Day of the Memphis edition of the NewME PopUp Accelerator. I was blown away by the great ideas and the caliber of entrepreneurs in the room. One in particular is not starting a tech company. In fact, she’s going into education, a rocky field at best. But, I was so impressed by her and her venture, I couldn’t help but share it with Nibletz readers.
Alexandria Lee knows firsthand what it’s like to grow up struggling. The daughter of a single mom and a drug addict dad, her story could have been one of the thousands of tragedies happening in American schools every day. Except for that one teacher who challenged her to do more. Thanks to him–a transplant from Senegal–she switched to honors classes and surprised everyone by graduating not just from high school, but also from Spelman College and Harvard Law School.
Now, Nashville-based Lee has a new vision for education for African-American boys.
“9% of black males in the 8th grade can read at a proficient level,” she said in her NewME pitch. Well, obviously, that’s not acceptable.
Lee’s solution is to open a school in Ghana and transplant at-risk boys for a few years of out-of-their-element education. Besides honors-level classes, the boys will be paired with a local student to learn leadership and entrepreneurship. They will work together to devise community action plans that solve real problems in the local community. The school wants to teach African-American boys where their roots really are, not in the tragedy of slavery, but in the deserts of Africa.
“Our goal is to transform discarded youth into community leaders. Our students will come into the program underperforming. We will first catch them up, and then excel them past their classmates back home. But, more than just academic gap closure, our students will be trained in emotional competence, given the desire to serve others, and learn manhood lessons. At an early age they will become global citizens and return to their communities with broadened horizons, prepared to begin finding solutions to ills within their own communities,” Lee told me in an email.
The Anew School will receive charter school funding from the state of Tennessee, but they will also supplement with donations from private foundations. They already have some land in Ghana and will begin building soon.