Jason Baker is a native Memphian and a Choose901 guest writer. He serves as the Director of Development and Marketing at Believe Memphis Academy, working to close the education achievement gap through the generous efforts of individual and organizational community partners.
“If you want something different, you have to do something different”.
This is an age-old saying that people typically apply to health and fitness, career, and various other avenues in life. But at Believe Memphis Academy Charter School, we have seen a corporate community partner, Sell901, apply this to their business structure in an effort to expand access and opportunity for students in Memphis. Believe Memphis Academy exists to do just that, expand access and opportunity through high-quality education in the 38107 North Memphis zip code.
About Believe Memphis Academy
Believe is a public, tuition-free, open-enrollment, grades 4-8, college-prep charter school that opened in the Fall of 2018. Our mission toward social and racial justice drives us to upend the statistic that over 75% of students in Memphis are currently reading below grade level. That statistic is being upended in our classrooms every day that students are in our building. Literacy is our focus in preparing our students for excelling in high school, thriving in college, and leading lives full of opportunity.
This focus on literacy led to Believe having the 3rd highest reading growth in the entire district during the 2018-2019 school year (2019-2020 data forthcoming due to COVID interruptions). During 2018-2019, our founding 4th and 5th graders started the year with 36 students reading at a Kindergarten or below level, but we ended the year with only 3 students in that range. We also started the year with only 9 students reading at or above a 3rd grade reading level, but ended the year with 54 students reading at or above a 3rd grade level.
With great teaching, leadership development, and robust student supports, including 210 minutes of reading and 190 minutes of individualized tutoring, the impossible suddenly became possible.
The Effects of COVID-19
With the sudden shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Believe had to take learning in-home. But before we could think about continuing to engage our rigorous academic curriculum, we had to make sure basic needs were covered:
- We spent time reaching out to our students and their families to ask how they were doing.
- We distributed an average of 8,500 meals to our families each Thursday, safely from our school building.
- We connected 95% of student homes to the internet through a low-income program run by Comcast.
- We coordinated with community partners to ensure students continued receiving virtual mental health counseling.
Once these foundational pieces were in place, students were ready to continue learning.
Sell901 Steps Up to Help
The last building block was the launch of our Give 190 Chromebook Campaign, which sought to raise funds to move our school to a 1:1 student:laptop computer ratio, guaranteeing that every child in our building would continue to receive instruction while at home and feel connected to their school community during an otherwise isolated time.
We leaned on the city of Memphis, its people and its organizations, and they held us up. Through the efforts of the Give190 campaign, we raised $70,000 which translated to 300 Chromebooks.
The donor-base was made up of 4 Corporations, 2 Foundations, 2 Non-Profits, and 88 individuals. One of those 4 corporations is local home realtor Sell901. Not only did Sell901 make a contribution towards the campaign, they also incorporated giving into the very fabric of their business model, creating their own company campaign to support the mission of Believe: For each home Sell901 closes during the months of May, June, and July, one Chromebook laptop will be donated from the company to Believe.
“A business doesn’t simply exist in Memphis; it must thrive. And to be part of a thriving community, you must be socially in tune with the needs of the city. Education is a fundamental need for success and it is a proven fact that children who receive access to a strong education are exponentially more successful in launching from poverty and creating a sustainable future for their family. The Sell901 Team chose to involve ourselves and our clients with Believe Memphis Academy because it is our responsibility to take ownership in a thriving city. We can’t solve it alone. We are glad to help one student at a time further their education. Our hope is that due to our small efforts, the trajectory of an individual, a family, and even a community will be transformed into a thriving oasis of life.”
-Zach Thomas, Sell901 Owner and Principal Broker
The moral of the story? If you want something different—students reading on grade level—then you have to do something different—engage the city as a business and give back in ways that have meaningful impact.
To learn more about the mission of Believe Memphis Academy, and how individual and corporate giving can directly impact the life of a student, contact Jason Baker, Director of Development & Marketing, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s do something different, together.
If you are looking to purchase or sell a home this summer, get in touch with the Sell901 Team to not only assist with this process but to also give back to a Believe student at the same time by contacting Zach Thomas at email@example.com or 901.674.1612.