Jahleese Hadley, Director of College Access, GLOW Academy, Wilmington, NC
Who/What first inspired you to work in education? Or What motivates you to wake up and go to work?
I am a product of a small, all-girls college preparatory school in the heart of Spanish Harlem in New York City. I went to that school at a pivotal moment in the history of public single-gender education in the United States. Admittedly, I was not aware of this until I graduated from college and became a working adult. I realized that while I had been a motivated student, there were some specific and intentional mechanisms that my school and college counselor put in place to increase my chances of access to and persistence through college. I wanted to understand what those mechanisms were and the social scientist in me wanted to understand why they were needed. I have stayed in education because now that I understand why those mechanisms are still needed, I want to be a part of making sure they get implemented and that students who historically have been underrepresented in post-secondary vocational and academic spaces have the opportunities they desire.
Tell us about GLOW Academy and your college advising program:
At the Girls Leadership Academy Of Wilmington (GLOW) we prepare students for successful college admission, college graduation and citizenship through life. Our 6th through 12th grade, single-gender school is designed for first-generation college students. Its “whole girl” focus offers a learning environment that nurtures the emotional, physical and academic facets of each student, developing a strong and supportive culture among its faculty, students, their families and the broader community.
An affiliate of the Young Women’s Leadership Network, a group of groundbreaking and successful single-gender schools founded in New York in 1996, GLOW is guided by a proven educational model. Here, young women are encouraged to dream big and then given the structure and support to make their dreams come true. Our focus on academic rigor, personal responsibility and college preparedness requires our students to deliver their very best, in the classroom and out. The result is a school that works hard to close the opportunity and achievement gap among families with fewer available resources.
For the majority of my students, the obstacles to a college education are real. Many will be the first in their families to attend college. We are committed to getting students to and through college. Our College Bound team works with each student and her family to build college awareness, visit college campuses, provide one-on-one application help, secure financial aid, and support enrollment.
Biggest “win” in your school/program history? Explain what it was, how it came about, and what it meant to your team.
A big “win” for our school was securing a partnership with Cape Fear Community College to offer academically advanced and motivated students at GLOW the opportunity to earn a Business Administration Certificate beginning in the 9th grade. Our “Early Risers” program is a unique opportunity, and our students are able to begin gaining transferable college credit as early as 9th grade. As a smaller, still growing school with a public school budget, we can’t offer all the same traditional experiences that students envision in high school like sports just yet. This program helps some of our students build an even stronger resume while we continue to grow our other programming.
What are you excited about in the near future for your program (or school)?
I joined the GLOW school community in its founding year. I am so very excited to support our first graduating class through their junior year and actually begin their long-awaited college search, match and application process!
What has been your favorite project so far?
My favorite project so far was taking my 8th grade students on their first overnight college trip to Washington D.C. Some of my students had never been outside of North Carolina, so to watch them navigate college campuses like Howard University and the University of Richmond with burgeoning confidence was inspiring.
What would you do for a career if you weren’t doing this?
If I were not working in college access, I believe I would still be doing some sort of education program development that serves students. Learners are the foundation of our society, and I have always felt driven to support them in some form. When I retire, though, I would most definitely like to open a custom dessert bakery. I’ve been making custom confections for 10 years now and it is a passion of mine. Plus, who doesn’t love frosting?!
What chore do you absolutely hate doing? Cleaning the bathroom is gross.
What are your quarantine hacks? CDC guidelines haven’t steered me wrong yet 😉
What music is on your iPhone/Android phone? From about November to February of every year, it’s a steady stream of Holiday music. Otherwise I am a true eclectic. I will listen to anything.
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet? I would love to meet Ida B. Wells. She was full of guts and conviction and those kinds of people are always great to talk to and learn from.
What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity? I always have a book with me. I will read anywhere.
What is the first concert you attended? I don’t like crowds so that’s a NO for me. But I would have faced my fears to see *NSYNC in concert.
(Interview by SACAC North Carolina Communication Liaison Justine Worthington)