As a school leader and employer I’m most proud of my ability to attract and retain staff who reflect the diverse experiences and backgrounds of our students. Without a team of highly skilled educators and community leaders who trust my leadership, the ambitious goals I have set for our school would be unattainable. I have had the honor of working with Angelica Cox, Thrival Indy’s math teacher, since her first year in the classroom. At the time, she was a fresh graduate from the nation’s top engineering school and working on her master’s degree through IUPUI’s Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Over the past five years, I have watched Cox grow into a confident, highly effective math instructor and leader-in-training.
I asked Cox how her past experiences prepared her for the role she plays for Thrival Indy, and her response is below:
“After completing my first year at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, I wanted to transfer to a historically Black college or university. I had earned scholarships, many for full-rides, to every single university I had applied to during my freshman year of high school. I had always been at the top of my class, even in elementary school, so the workload of the number one undergraduate engineering school in America was not the problem — lack of representation was my issue. I grew up on the eastside of Indianapolis, and I attended IPS #83, Belzer Middle School and Lawrence Central High School before making my way to Rose. I grew up surrounded by diversity, surrounded by students who looked like me. When I stepped foot on that campus, I felt uneasy because like most colleges and universities, it lacked people who looked like me.
“Lack of diversity in my teachers is something I had accepted as normal. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 4.2% of Indiana teachers are Black. I can count the number of Black teachers I had in my lifetime (from elementary to post-graduate) on two hands. Lack of diversity took such a toll on me in college because throughout my elementary and secondary education school years, I at least had plenty of fellow Black friends that understood where I came from, had similar family structures, religious backgrounds, interests, hair, etc. I learned how exhausting it could be being the representative for an entire race. I needed to see more than just 2% of me walking around campus on the daily basis. Despite these struggles, I stayed. I made it my mission to take advantage of every opportunity thrown at me during those four years and now it’s my mission to make sure more students have the same opportunities I had.
“Thrival Indy Academy would have been my dream school growing up. I have always wanted to travel abroad, so to travel abroad for work was a dream! I studied French and Spanish throughout middle school and high school and studied abroad in three countries during my time at Rose-Hulman. I knew back then knowing the language of the country would enhance my international experience, so I enriched my first experience by studying the language for eight years. Each international experience helped me grow more as a person and fueled my desire to know more about people and society. I love that we are people- and society-focused at Thrival Indy. We prepare students to have the best international experience by offering Spanish courses and personal growth courses for students. Here at Thrival, we are affirming so students can be exactly who they are without judgment. We love our students and the fact that the teachers’ demographics mimic the students’ demographics makes us unique to the majority of schools in America.
India Hui is the CEO and school leader of Thrival Indy Academy, a public high school which focuses on local and global civic engagement. Learn more at thrivalindy.org.