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Pizza, planning and education awareness

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In School Spirit wraps education advocacy month in DeKalb County

 For two hours on July 25, the Pizza Hut located at 5985 Flat Shoals Road became a haven for education awareness and advocacy.

 As part of In School Spirit’s Education Advocacy Awareness Month, founder Danielle Stewart made Pizza Hut’s dining area her base for education advocacy in DeKalb County. On July 11, 18 and 25, residents joined Stewart and other education professionals to gather resources to prepare for the upcoming school year.

 “I was born and raised in south DeKalb and it’s amazing to give back,” Stewart said. “It’s the best form of gratification.”

 On July 11, Stewart said residents participated in “Great Expectations: Ideal vs. Reality School,” where parents and students learned how to read school-related statistics. On July 18, attendees partook in “Your Voice, My Voice, Our Voice,” to learn how to advocate for better support and opportunities at their school.

 The session on July 25, “Working Together to Put it All Together,” allowed participants to create written action plans for goals throughout the school year.

 Stewart said she founded In School Spirit following research about educational challenges faced by minority students. She said she hosts panels, connects concerned residents to resources, hosts college workshops and provides tools to take students to the next level of education.

 “What I want to do is build a type of cohesiveness and set a platform that’s ongoing,” Stewart said. “I want to empower the community to care about these schools and have a network of dialogue outside of our meetings. From there, they can decide how to reach state representatives and school board members and what message to bring to them.”

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 Stewart was joined by local author L.M. Bedell as well as fellow advocate Steven Quinn, a state outreach manager from Georgia Can, a nonprofit specializing in education policy.

 “We bring communities together, whether it’s stakeholders like community activists, educators, parents or people who just care about the education system,” Quinn said. “We try to create policies that put students first.”

 Quinn said his partnership with In School Spirit helps further Georgia Can’s mission of creating invested DeKalb County residents.

 “There’s a lot of parents interested in [advocacy] but they don’t know where to start,” Quinn said. “If we can give a conversation saying, ‘Hey, this is a tool you can use,’ or ‘This is how you get more information,’ or provide awareness on an issue, it’s a big first piece of the puzzle.”

 Quinn said parents question him about the quality of DeKalb County schools, higher quality options and expanding the conversation to decision makers.

 “No school system is perfect,” Quinn said. “But parents want to make sure their children are going to a good school.”

 Bedell said she was present to offer and explain advice from her book Listen to Me and College Will Be Easy, which helps people start or return to college, avoid gaining weight during freshman year, picking a major, getting credit before classes start, and taking the next step after high school.

 Future Georgia State University student and Paideia School graduate Gabrielle Williams and parent Christelle Williams said they attended the event July 25 to show support for Stewart and advocate as much as they can.

 “This is something I didn’t have when I was growing up and when Christelle was growing up,” Williams said. “There’s things you just don’t’ know about. Information on ACT, SAT fees, who can help you in your community or outside your community. Little things. Now that Stewart is trying to get out there to help students, we want to be there to say, ‘Yes, do this! If we can share and save some other people some heartache, that’s what we’ll do.’”

 Stewart said she hopes to host more events short after school starts on Aug. 8. She said that meeting will focus on how the school year is going and how people are putting action to their educational plans.

 “The conversation and dialogue will go on and on until the standards of the community are met,” Stewart said.

 For more information on Stewart and In School Spirit, visit www.inschoolspirit.com. For more information on Georgia Can, visit www.gaca.org.

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  1. Kysa Daniels says:

    Highly informative sessions with lots of parent/student engagement. Let’s keep this type of dialogue and planning going.

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