After 17 years working as a public school educator, Mariama Shaheed had a vision of how to serve local parents and families in her hometown of Indianapolis better. Many of her students spoke English as a second language, and she recognized that this was a barrier to their education. Not only were their learning needs different from students whose primary language was English, the language barrier proved difficult for parents to engage in their childrens’ education since they didn’t speak the same language as the teachers.
Mariama’s vision was to create a dual-language school that would not only serve Indianapolis’s growing population of English language learners, but also neighborhood families with an interest in developing bilingual students. Her school would connect students from diverse backgrounds, and provide them with a highly rigorous, engaging, and nurturing environment where they could learn and grow.
Three years ago, this vision became a reality with the launch of Global Prep Academy (Global Prep), an Indianapolis Public School Innovation School. Mariama took on the challenge of turning around an under-performing school in Indiana with the new school model. Global Prep is now one of the most in-demand public schools by Indianapolis families. In fact, demand exceeds available openings as the school serves both neighborhood families and retains slots for students across the city. The school has moved out of the bottom 25% of schools within the city and continues to explore ways to improve student achievement.
Mariama had support from The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based non-profit focused on creating a great public school for every Indianapolis student. The Mind Trust supported Mariama with an Innovation School Fellowship and provided seed capital to offset some start-up costs of the school.
Through her fellowship, Mariama was able to validate her plan through active listening and feedback from parents and community. The plan for Global Prep reflected the hopes, dreams, and needs of the families the school now serves.
It takes an innovative leader like Mariama to create, grow, and maintain a quality school. Mariama is one of more than 831 exceptional school leaders we support as they work to listen, understand the needs of their community, and utilize their vision to make a difference.
Watch this video to hear directly about Mariama’s path to creating Global Prep and stay tuned for stories on more empowered school leaders making a difference in their communities.
Mariama Shaheed: I always wanted to be a teacher and I became a teacher. Then I was a principal. After being in the district for 17 years, I reached out to my superintendent and I’m like, “I’ve got this great idea. We need to build a bilingual school.” Because 30% of the kids in the district were native Spanish speakers. And that’s when I reached out to the Mind Trust.
Mariama Shaheed: A big part that the Mind Trust fellowship focused on was community engagement and I remember questioning, “Is this the right thing? Should we even be doing a bilingual school?” But engaging with the families and really being a listener was critical to us building the school. Not only do the numbers show that things are improving, but also we see it in the amount of parent engagement.
Keila Vargas: On the days I’m there as a volunteer, the teachers and the principals are so grateful for the help. This is my motivation for wanting to be there. My husband and I have been very involved in our children’s education, so that they can become good citizens of this nation.
Mariama Shaheed: It was always intended to be an environment that was inclusive. How do you make sure that you’re impactful in connecting with families that you want to be a part of that community? Between the data coming back and then just the number of kids and families that continued to pour into the school, it affirmed that while this work is tough, it’s the right thing at the right time for the right community.