QEA’s Got Talent

December 28
04:00 2017

By Busta Brown

Quality Education Academy (QEA) had its first talent show in over a decade.

“It took a great deal of hard work and coordinating. We have a very unique school system that is comprised of what most traditional public schools would deem four different schools (pre-K; 1, 2,3 4, and 5; elementary, middle, and high school), so it was quite a challenge to schedule auditions and practices with a show staff of a couple of people,” said Tamara Turner, chief development officer at QEA.

She continued, “We do every single thing at QEA as a team, so our arts department staff pulled together with the media/tech staff, with Sashoi Hinds and myself, to pull such a huge event off.” 

Sashoi Hinds, elementary school leader, used her Masters In School Administration and her personal gifts as a gospel singer to refine students’ performance skills.  Tamara Turner, completing her Doctorate in Organizational Development and Change, is also a gospel recording artist, and kicked off the show with a rap that surprised the audience.

“We can do it all!” she shared that night, encouraging students to try new things and be fearless.  Mrs. Turner has served at QEA for 14 of its 25 years and has seen it grow from a small private school in a church in the early ’90s to a strong pillar in the Triad Community, for its over 600 students and families.  Turner was excited to share, “It’s the state’s best kept secret, with top honors in academics by the state, and an over 95 percent graduation rate – unheard of.”

Sisters perform song

Four-year-old Nia Quoi, with her sister Imani Quoi, wowed the audience with their confidence and talent.  They performed a song they created with their mother called “Brown Girls,” encouraging black young ladies to strive for whatever they want in life.  Some of the lyrics brought tears to the judge’s eyes. “This is for the brown girls all over the world, you can do it, you can be it!”  The girls routinely make up these kinds of songs showing pride in their culture and ancestry.  Imani became fascinated with a book she read in kindergarten called “Shades of Black” that taught students about a standard of beauty for black children, and she began to read everything she could on black history. She even wrote a short play about Harriet Tubman while in kindergarten. 

Imani, the first-grader of the duo, actually created a business with her baby sister called “2 Sisters and a Lemon” that they have maintained for over a year, selling various flavors of homemade lemonade.  The two presented their business in one of the school’s weekly Wednesday assemblies, encouraging elementary students to become entrepreneurs, which also happens to be the focus of QEA’s high school. 

Latino students and third-grader

The youngest winners, Anna Suarez and Gabriela Ruiz, “are examples of how we encourage our Latino students to be proud of their culture,” said Turner. Both students’ parents work at the school. 

T’szani Penn is the third-grader who has attended Quality Education Institute (QEI, the pre-K) and QEA. “Her talent encouraged her family to help her make a music video.”  The school hosted the video and had some students join in, and Tszani has a great video on now called “I Dig School,” which she performed at the QEA’s Got Talent showcase, and the whole school was singing and rapping along with her.  T’szani has already penned her next hit, sharing that she had decided to go into gospel rap now.  The lyrics are far beyond the typical third-grade student – a testament to what QEA students consistently do. 

Unique business model

Simon Johnson, the co-founder and CEO of Quality Education Academy, used a unique business model to improve education for black and brown students in the Triad.  A successful businessman in his own right, took up the mantle from his then senior minister Cloys Cecil at Carver Road Church of Christ, and co-founded a new kind of charter school. 

He grew Quality Education Institute from a lower elementary school of about 60 students in the early ’90s to the school system it is today, 25 years later.  He increased the standard of teacher serving our children and took all staff through “CEO Training” Mr. Johnson has developed an executive leadership council of fairly young, sharp leaders who are taking it to the next level. 

Some names are Marco Suarez, academic dean; Bernice Roberts, high school leader; Tamara Turner, chief development officer; Sashoi Hinds, elementary school leader; Nicole Stowe, middle school leader; Ayshia Martin, teacher’s college director; Isaac Pitts Jr., facilites/transportation and head basketball coach; and Tonya Bellanger, chief finance officer.

Check out our channel @ Winstonsalem Chronicle to see these talented students.

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