Purpose Prep Changed the Course of My Daughter’s Life

By Yolanda Webster, former Purpose Prep parent

A few years ago, very shortly after quitting high school, I realized that I had taken my education too lightly, and that I had to direct my children down a different path in order for them to get the education that they needed.

I grew up in an extremely big family, and we lived in public housing. I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, but my neighborhood limited us in many ways, by dictating what we could do, where we could go, and, most importantly, the schools we could attend. It didn’t matter if the school I was zoned for was poor performing, or just wasn’t a good fit for me. Choosing another option just wasn’t available for me or my siblings. There were no other options.

By the time I reached high school, I actually had a chance to attend the high-performing Hume Fogg, but I wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunity because there were no school bus routes for that school in my area, and catching the city bus wasn't free for students at that time. Money was hard to come by, so I was forced to attend my zoned high school with the same students who also lived in my same public housing which, looking back, meant none of us were pushing each other to do better than the lives we were born into.

In the end, I dropped out of high school, a decision that led to me to many dead ends in my life. Despite not having a diploma myself, I was determined to see that my children got the chances that I didn't. I was determined to use the mistakes that I made in my own education, and the limitations placed on me, to forge a new path for my own children. I wanted to make sure they had every advantage I never did.

As a single parent of seven children, this meant I had to quickly strategize a plan that would work for all of them. I started by exploring options of other schools and began looking for options that would allow me to send my children to schools other than the ones we were zoned for. I strongly believed that if my children were able to attend schools outside their zone, they would have a better chance at not just learning but even graduating and maybe even going to college. I even went back and earned my GED, because I wanted my kids to see that I was practicing what I preached: education is important.

At the time, there were only a handful of charter schools in Nashville. One of my children already attended KIPP Nashville College Prep, and I could see the positive difference that school had made in his life. But at the time, KIPP didn’t have an elementary school for my daughter, Rogenique Webster, to attend, so I settled for a district school that took kids outside its zone but kept looking for other options. Then it happened. In 2013, I heard several parents talking about a new school opening not far from our neighborhood. And when I heard it was a charter school, I immediately sought out an application to fill out and return.

The last one of my seven children was accepted into not just any charter school, but was blessed to be a founding student of the greatest charter elementary school ever: Purpose Preparatory Academy.

Yolanda’s daughter, Rogenique Webster, graduates last spring from Purpose Preparatory Academy.

Yolanda’s daughter, Rogenique Webster, graduates last spring from Purpose Preparatory Academy.

At Purpose Prep, the teachers were not only patient, caring, concerned, and loving, but they were determined to make sure that each and every student got the learning opportunity of a lifetime. Rogenique became a much stronger reader while at Purpose Prep, and I could tell she was happier, too. Purpose Prep helped me see my own dreams of a high-quality, public education fulfilled through my daughter. Purpose Prep teachers never give up on any student.

Last year, Rogenique graduated from Purpose Prep and is now thriving at Meigs Middle Magnet, a local middle school that requires students to earn high test scores in order to be admitted. Graduates then automatically can attend Hume Fogg for high school. Purpose Prep changed what was possible for my daughter, and they are continuing to do the same for other kids in our neighborhood.

Thank you, Purpose Prep family, for your extremely hard work and dedication.

Kelli Gauthier