There’s one school in Oak Grove, Louisiana, where this week’s Change Agent, Shakoe English, grew up. It’s the kind of school where kindergarteners share a cafeteria with their older brothers and sisters in high school. If you’re a teacher there, chances are you know the parents and grandparents of most of the students you teach. In Oak Grove, the lines between community and school don’t exist—the Oak Grove community is the school and the school is the Oak Grove community.
“I guess I do what I do ultimately because I like the idea of schools that are more community and family-oriented...I want schools to look different for my son,” said English.
After receiving her MA in speech and theater from Grambling State University, English came to Seattle and began working with Solid Ground (formerly known as the Fremont Public Association) as a Washington Reading Corps (WRC) VISTA. The WRC was created in 1998 by Gov. Gary Locke when WASL tests found that close to half of Washington’s fourth graders weren’t reading at grade level. The WRC matches AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers with Washington schools as full-time literacy tutors and liaisons with Washington communities more broadly. Since her time as a VISTA volunteer, English has become the Washington Reading Corps’ South King County program supervisor.
“I like the idea of bringing communities and schools together,” said English.