Quality School Options: Empowering school leaders to turn visions to reality

As part of our Quality School Options initiative, we support school leaders to create, grow, or improve public schools that serve students from low-income backgrounds. We know that a quality education is the foundation for success in life, and yet too many students in the U.S. still do not have the option to attend a school that meets their needs. To ensure students all over the country have options for their education, we work with partners who last year alone supported 831 public schools serving over 400,000 students in 134 cities.

After 17 years working as a public school educator, Mariama Shaheed had a vision of how to serve local parents and families in her hometown of Indianapolis better. Many of her students spoke English as a second language, and she recognized that this was a barrier to their education. Not only were their learning needs different from students whose primary language was English, the language barrier proved difficult for parents to engage in their childrens’ education since they didn’t speak the same language as the teachers.

Mariama’s vision was to create a dual-language school that would not only serve Indianapolis’s growing population of English language learners, but also neighborhood families with an interest in developing bilingual students. Her school would connect students from diverse backgrounds, and provide them with a highly rigorous, engaging, and nurturing environment where they could learn and grow.

Three years ago, this vision became a reality with the launch of Global Prep Academy (Global Prep), an Indianapolis Public School Innovation School. Mariama took on the challenge of turning around an under-performing school in Indiana with the new school model. Global Prep is now one of the most in-demand public schools by Indianapolis families. In fact, demand exceeds available openings as the school serves both neighborhood families and retains slots for students across the city. The school has moved out of the bottom 25% of schools within the city and continues to explore ways to improve student achievement.

Mariama had support from The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based non-profit focused on creating a great public school for every Indianapolis student. The Mind Trust supported Mariama with an Innovation School Fellowship and provided seed capital to offset some start-up costs of the school.

Through her fellowship, Mariama was able to validate her plan through active listening and feedback from parents and community. The plan for Global Prep reflected the hopes, dreams, and needs of the families the school now serves.

It takes an innovative leader like Mariama to create, grow, and maintain a quality school. Mariama is one of more than 831 exceptional school leaders we support as they work to listen, understand the needs of their community, and utilize their vision to make a difference.

Watch this video to hear directly about Mariama’s path to creating Global Prep and stay tuned for stories on more empowered school leaders making a difference in their communities.