“Which makes [the Ansley School] special and different from other schools is that we provide comprehensive services for the family, not just for the child.”
ATLANTA – Big smiles and energy surround the children of the Boyce L. Ansley School in downtown Atlanta.
“These kids are brilliant despite what they go through every day,” said school principal Dr. Leah Skinner. “They come to school ready to learn.”
But behind the fun of singing, dancing and learning in class, the students’ families face a difficult challenge.
“Homelessness is now such a vast conglomeration of experiences for families,” Dr. Skinner said. “So homeless children and families could be families living in shelters, literally living on the streets, could be in hotels, and now the newest thing is multiple families living in one household.”
The Ansley School is small and serves children from kindergarten through second grade, but unique with a special mission to meet the needs of children who have experienced homelessness. Tuition-free private school is an option that Breona Joyell’s family is grateful for.
“Without the Ansley School, I feel like I’m completely lost,” she told 11Alive’s Liza Lucas.
Joyelle’s family has been with the school since it opened in 2018, a time when she said her family was in dire need of resources. They found such support, all in one place, at school.
“Everything was free, so there was just a burden for me,” Joyelle said.
In addition to tuition, the school provides uniforms, meals, hotel coverage, and even gas and MARTA cards. There are also therapies and social services to help children and families with employment and housing assistance.
“What makes us special and different from other schools is that we provide comprehensive services for the family, not just the child,” Dr. Skinner explained. “We know there is a lot of trauma associated with homelessness, and so for us, it’s important for us to address those traumatic experiences that children and families may have in order to move them forward.”
Joyelle, who now leads parents in an advisory council, credits the school for her family’s success.
“I [give] congratulations to them because they helped me grow and develop,” said Joyelle. “And make sure that I can be prosperous for my children, and then they can see me prosperous and they will have a great example.
But despite the many resources provided to families, challenges persist. As the reach of Ansley School continues to grow, more and more families are facing transportation issues when bringing their children to school.
“The parents told us they needed a little more help because they still had to come over an hour to be here,” Skinner said.
As a result, the school is partnering with nonprofit Love Beyond Walls to raise $130,000 for two school buses, launching the Campaign “A bus for us” Friday, April 29 during Ansley School Day at the Georgia Capitol.
“The Ansley School is a vital part of the collaborative work we are doing to end homelessness in the city of Atlanta. Dr. Skinner and Ansley leaders are breaking the cycle of generational trauma by providing a safe place where children can truly thrive,” Terence Lester, founder of Love Beyond Walls, said in a statement.
The hope is that the new school buses will not only keep current children in school, but help other families, like Joyelle’s, find their place.
“I put my heart and soul into it because I feel like the education my kids are getting will come back abundantly in our lives,” she said.