The voice of California’s charter school movement

South LA Charter School Leader Finds the Silver Lining in Distance Learning

By Fabiola Prieto

“Shine so brightly that you drown out the darkness. By doing so, you give others the permission to do the same and you give the world the brilliant light it so desperately needs.”

This is the message that students at Vox Collegiate received via video on a Thursday morning from TyAnthony Davis, the head of the charter middle school nestled between the cities of Inglewood and Watts in South Los Angeles.

TyAnthony Davis Vox Collegiate

Mr. Davis has been recording daily messages and posting them to his school’s website, but not without deliberately staging his background with literary works like Richard Wright’s “Native Son” and Jackeline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming,” so that his students continue to be inspired despite the distance learning setting which they had to quickly adapt to as a result of COVID-19 school closures.

The vision behind Vox is unique: give kids in a historically underserved community the competencies to “advocate for the uplift of their community.” All students attend speech and debate classes and, in order to challenge students to practice critical thinking, teachers have also incorporated law lessons and mock trials into the curriculum which, for middle school students, is a huge advantage.

“The thing that sets us apart is our focus on the students’ voice and their communication skills. Vox means voice in Latin, and what we believe is that the through line for education is giving our kids the tools to express the incredible ideas that they have,” says Davis. “They’re all brilliant. They’re all capable, but if they can’t share what they have with the world, we’re worse off.”

The Silver lining on COVID-19

In addition to providing all students with Chromebooks for distance learning, leadership at Vox Collegiate collaborated with charter school networks across the nation to ensure students continue thriving.

“What we’ve created is an educational safety net so that our students are not falling through the cracks,” says Davis about helping his most vulnerable students. “I was able to take tools from Ednovate and KIPP and even Uncommon Schools and Achievement First on the East Coast… all of those [resources] made it possible because of the way the charter school community has opened up and collaborated and supported one another,” he adds.

The charter school also continues to hold weekly “townhalls” where students showcase their progress in public speaking, as well as other achievements.

“It’s a built-in part of our system…because I think we should celebrate our students more often than we think necessary, ” Davis says, adding that the highlight for him during these ceremonies is seeing student’s excitement when their peers receive recognition. “That’s what lets me know that students are growing into caring citizens who are truly invested in the success of one another.”

Vox Collegeate is currently enrolling students for the 2020-2021 school year.