Assistant Principal, BEST Academy
Mr. Larry Guilford serves as an assistant principal at an all boys school in an area of Atlanta that is historically low income and currently undergoing gentrification and displacement. Considering this, Mr. Guilford is intentional about letting students know that they are capable of doing just as much as anyone else and that when they walk through the doors of BEST Academy, they are accepted regardless of their socioeconomic background.
Community partnerships are essential to Mr. Guilford equity efforts at BEST Academy, because the students are able to gain access to resources and experiences that would not be available otherwise. Through these partnerships, students at BEST are able to take advantage of opportunities that allow them to go on college and personal enrichment tours. Some of the places students have visited include the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland and Columbia University in New York.
One of BEST’s largest partnerships is with the 100 Black Men of Atlanta. This partnership was instrumental in providing suits to ensure students are dressed for success, no matter the occasion.
Within the school itself, students have access to washing machines and even a barbershop that provides free haircuts for them. Thanks to individual contributions, students can also get access to other necessities like Retro Jordans, for example.
“All of this goes back to helping students feel more confident about themselves and their abilities. So, they’re not skipping school, because they feel like they don’t look the part,” Mr. Guilford explained.
For Mr. Guilford, it’s not just enough to explore equity around students, you must consider their parents as well.
“We have a program in place for parents where they go through 11 modules coaching them on how to better support their students, communicate with teachers and in this virtual setting, develop a learning environment that encourages student success at home as well.”
Additionally, he is deliberate in implementing programs that cater to each student’s unique needs and celebrating their success so they know that someone is always in their corner. His sixth graders go through a 10-week manhood curriculum that teaches them about orderliness and responsibility. At the end of that 10-week period, the students earn their BEST logo on their shirts and a celebration is held with the students and their families.
To ensure that the field is leveled for all students, Dr. Guilford creates programs that cater to each students’ individual needs and each grade level. For example, he implemented P.O.D. (Pathways of Development) which looks at the students’ interest and brings people in who can offer insight into what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, mechanic, or musician, for example.
“Equity,” he said emphatically, “eliminates obstacles that stop his boys from being successful. That is my why.”