Derek Brody - Why I Believe Memphis Academy

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“Excuse me, sir--do you have some spare change? I’m very hungry.” As a product of a stable family in an affluent suburb of New York City, I never expected to be uttering those words. It was early March on the windy streets of Washington, DC, and I was a college sophomore taking part in my university’s “Alternative Spring Break” program. I was placed in a group of 12 students working to understand homelessness and poverty in America today, and part of that experience included the “Urban Plunge,” in which we spent 48 hours experiencing homelessness. We slept on the street, panhandled for money, and engaged with the population of people experiencing homelessness. I don’t claim to be an expert on the causes and impact of poverty, and I came to realize that the reasons for homelessness are varied and complex. The theme that lingered in my mind for the years to come, however, was that of systemic educational failure. I began to reflect on my personal educational career: on the abundant books and educational tools carefully procured for me, the care and expertise of my teachers and school leaders, and the sense of stability provided by my school community. Education has been central to my growth for the entirety of my life, and it was apparent that my experience was not one shared by every child across this nation. I decided that a just, equitable society would be one that provided proper access to education for each student, and I wanted to be a part of finding the solution to the harmful tradition of educational inequity in our country.

In the process of considering how to make my own imprint on the modern educational system, I decided there was no better place to work towards this goal than Memphis. While it may not have the aura or reputation of other burgeoning “It” cities, Memphis is a city rich with important history, including its role in the Civil Rights struggle. As the recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death showed, Memphis is committed to fighting for equality and social justice in all forms. I am proud to take part in learning more about this history, and helping to create some of it myself. Memphis is also a close-knit community, bound together by the themes of dedication and determination. I cannot wait to become part of that community, learning to “grind” alongside the rest of Memphis’s residents.

A vital part of creating lasting change is surrounding oneself with a group of people who inspire each other to believe that real, significant change is possible. I am sure that the road to educational equity will be one littered with challenges along the way, and that is why I cannot wait to join the founding team at Believe Memphis Academy. Danny Song, Jeff Warren, and the rest of the team at BMA are good in every sense of the word: they are compassionate, they are tenacious, and they are authentic in their desire to transform education in Memphis. Creating a culture of achievement is no small task, but I have the utmost confidence in this team’s ability to work tirelessly in the pursuit of that goal. My ambition for transforming the role of education in our scholar’s lives is bold, but I know that I have chosen a city and a school that will make the demanding work worthwhile. I cannot wait to start on this journey at Believe Memphis Academy.

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Derek Brody is the Founding 5th Grade Core teacher at Believe Memphis Academy. Mr. Brody earned his bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University where he majored in Political Science and History. Upon graduating, Mr. Brody joined Teach For America and chose to move to Memphis to join the Founding Team of Believe Memphis Academy.

Danny Song