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Photo: Believe Memphis Academy

Believe Memphis Academy: Working to Close the Technology Gap

At Choose901, we often say that Memphis is full of “best-kept secrets,” and Believe Memphis Academy is undeniably one of those.

The college-preparatory charter school for 4-8 graders may only two years old, but is already filled with some of the city’s most energetic and committed educators who believe:

  • All children deserve an excellent education.
  • All families deserve a voice in their children’s education.
  • Memphis has the students and teachers who can change the world.

The school actively puts those beliefs to work via high academic standards, character recognition, Scholar of the Week awards, and more.

April Ghueder, 6th grade teacher, Photo: Believe Memphis Academy

Two months ago, when COVID-19 shut down our city, Believe was impacted in some sobering ways.

While technology made it possible for the school year to continue for many other schools across the “M,” many of Believe’s students lacked access to technology at home—putting them at an immediate disadvantage. In addition, these scholars rely on the free school breakfast and lunch program that the school offers, and when the school was closed, concerns about students being fed rose. Other gaps that the leadership team and staff recognized were mental health resources, connection to their school community, and even books to read at home.

Once these needs were identified, the school’s leadership took time to pause and listen. They spoke with scholars, their families, and Believe’s leadership team about their overwhelming concerns—and then they began to develop strategic solutions. They wanted to eliminate barriers while focusing on projects that they could scale long-term.

First, they prioritized basic needs like food. The school already had the budget for lunches, so they started with ensuring that meals were provided for their students and families by organizing a safe meal distribution.  Teachers and staff currently distribute over 8,000 meals during their weekly pick-up window which computes to 5 days of breakfasts and lunches for each family.

A Believe Memphis Academy staff member assists with meal distribution.

The more daunting problem was how to give the students access to computers and internet so that learning, and communication with teachers and staff could continue from home.

The solution was easy to identify—Chromebooks cost $233 each and could provide access to education, teacher instruction, and connection to community for the scholars. But, there was a roadblock as far as execution; no budget was established for this.

Believe knew they needed help, so they called on some of the most generous donors in America—Memphians.

Jason Baker, Director of Development & Marketing at Believe, recalls their thought process.

“Memphis is a philanthropic city, so we counted on this. People want to give but they don’t always know how,” Baker said.

So Jason and his colleagues gave them the “how”—they launched the Give190 campaign and made it very simple: $233 provides a Chromebook for a student at Believe and helps bridge the technology gap during a crucial time. They called on individuals, foundations, and potential partners who could become corporate or organizational sponsors—and just like that, they made it happen.

In less than 2 weeks, Believe was able to purchase 265 Chromebooks, 75 more than their original goal…all because of generous donors in our city!

And for the icing on the cake, the school also made a list of families that didn’t have internet access at home and they worked with each one to set that up.

Over the last two months, the school’s teachers and administration have posted encouraging and energetic videos on the school’s social media, sharing gratitude, encouraging students, and giving challenges. Danny Song, Head of School, recently used the account to fill their scholars in on the Chromebook donations and let them know that “People all over the city care about and believe in you.”

Badgers, we are amazed by your resilience, and we believe in you too!!

Find out more about Believe Memphis HERE.

To partner with Believe through giving, contact Jason Baker HERE.

Apply to join the Believe team HERE.

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