Trey Willis - Why I Believe Memphis Academy


“Wake up Trey and Jalissa, it is time to get dressed!” As a kid, this is how I remember my mother waking us up every morning. The three of us slept in a queen-sized bed upstairs inside my grandparent’s house in North Memphis. I didn’t mind getting up so early at the time, because if I got dressed quickly enough I could watch the cartoons that would come on right before the news aired. Once my mother finished combing and putting berets in my sister’s hair, we went down the stairs, got into the car, and left for school. As my mother pulled out of the driveway, I would think to myself, “Why do we have to drive to the other side of town when there is an elementary school only a few houses down from ours? There must be something wrong with that school if Ma won’t let us go there.”

In middle school, my mother would continue her fight to give us the best education possible by camping outside the Board of Education to receive an optional transfer waiver. And then again in high school, when she was not so fortunate to receive a waiver, she ultimately decided to leave my grandparent’s house and move into an apartment in the desired school’s zone. Sadly, my story is not unique. My circumstances are not rare. The challenges that we had to overcome are common. There are many families in Memphis, and all across the nation, searching for the best education for their children. I was blessed and fortunate enough to have a parent and family with the means to provide this opportunity; but many kids aren’t so lucky.

I never dreamed that I would become an educator. One year after graduating college, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to enter the classroom and I decided to accept the call to teach. This work is hard, but worth it. This work is bigger than me and that is why I love it. I believe that education is the gateway to opportunity and access to more choices in life. I believe that every student should have equal access to a high quality school in their neighborhood to attend, if they so choose. There is a lot of talent in this city and a lot of dreams that go unfulfilled because of a lack of access to quality education. This is an injustice. My hope is to change the narrative for our young scholars here in Memphis, TN.

Believe Memphis Academy excites me because the founders truly believe in this city and the people that call it home. Our children are our future and it is our responsibility as educators to help prepare them for it. I believe in the mission and vision of this school and its commitment to put students first. Memphis is my hometown and my personal desire is to see it flourish and help people thrive. I long for the day that stories like mine are no more. The stakes could not be any higher and I am ready to work! It brings me great joy to be able to lock arms with other like-minded and ambitious educators next Fall to continue this important and noble work.


Trey Willis is a current 5th grade math teacher. A native Memphian and University of Memphis graduate with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education and a Master of Education in Urban Education from Union University, Mr. Willis brings 5 years of classroom experience. We are so grateful to Mr. Willis' commitment to educational equity in our city and particularly grateful for his commitment to join Believe Memphis Academy's founding team.