Lora Smothers’ school aims to be much more than another school in Athens.
Smothers gave a preview of her visions for Joy Village School to a crowd of family, friends, community members, and officials on Saturday at Oconee River Wesleyan Church.
Smothers’ personal experience as both teacher and student led to the opening of Joy Village.
Smothers claimed that, while she enjoyed her school years and was a good student, she suffered from racial trauma. Smothers was forced to confront that experience as a teacher years later.
“What I saw were other students going through the exact same things as I did 20 years later,” she said. “Being punished because of their culture, marginalized because of how they spoke, wore their hair, or what music they listened too, was a punishment.”
Smothers stated that she was also hearing complaints from Black families about the education of their children. Similar, teachers described the difficulties they faced to ensure students received the education they desired.
Smothers said, “We are fighting for basic when children deserve the very best.” “So I founded Joy Village School to give my children the best.
Smothers stated that the mission of the organization is to create safe and affirming learning environments for Black youth so they can enjoy their education. She stated that the ultimate goal is to eliminate Black ownership in Athens.
She also referred to the historical importance of Athens’ Black schools.
Smothers said that many members of the community still feel the loss of what was at those schools. “I was truly inspired by that.”
After a year of fundraising, which included running her own youth camps and math classes, the school is now months away.
Smothers also showed a glimpse of joy-driven education through an interactive game. It aims to be community-based and interdisciplinarious, experiential, play-based, and experiential.
Smothers stated, “I want it tap into all senses learning modalities; and I want it have kinetic energy.” “I want it to be like children.”
Joy Village also celebrated the occasion by opening its doors to the public. Visitors were able walk through the classrooms and decorated halls to see what the students will experience.
The school features several classrooms as well as a library, music and art rooms.
Participants described the school’s visionary approach to educating Black youth.
“You can tell that it’s going through into the kids and love them,” Haley McMillan, President of the Eta Xi Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., stated.
McMillan was just one of many volunteers who showed families around Saturday’s school.
Kennedy Cleveland, another Alpha Kappa Alpha member, stated that part of their work is to encourage Black youth to go to historically Black colleges and universities. Joy Village School is a place where Black students can see their own reflections in their teachers and curriculum.
Cleveland stated that HBCUs will be easy to push for if they start from here.
The school also featured the history of Black Athenians, with one classroom displaying community leaders over the years and their impact on the city.
Solomon Smothers is the husband of Smothers. He said that Joy Village School was created to meet a need in Athens. However, it’s not about competing with other schools. He said that the school was founded to address some of the problems Black students face in the current education system.
Solomonsaid, “The African American community deserves only the best. That’s what this school aims to achieve.”
Joy Village School information can be found athttps://www.joyvillageschool.com.