Amanda Johnson, Founder and Executive Director
Clarksdale, Mississippi

Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School

An Unexpected Home
When Amanda moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi for Teach for America, her life plans changed unexpectedly. “I thought it was just going to be a small detour but I fell in love with teaching and the Delta and knew I wanted to continue doing education there.” Yet Amanda soon became aware of the lack of local educational opportunities, a need that felt even more urgent to fill when Amanda began a family of her own. “The quality of traditional public schools was just not what I envisioned for children in the Delta, and I also began considering educational options for my girls.”

“Opening Clarksdale Collegiate was personal.” With two young daughters of her own, Amanda’s desire to provide the students of her community with a quality education had an extra layer of investment. “We set up a structure where kids feel safe, know what is expected of them and have the parameters that allow them to excel.” In addition, Clarksdale has a strong pride for its location. “The Delta is in our mission; we are preparing scholars from this place specifically.”

Big Changes in a Small Town
Originally situated in a church building, Clarksdale quickly outgrew its existing space and reached out to Civic Builders for support. “Working with Civic was great. They got to know our school and what we were doing and what we wanted to accomplish. They made it easy.” Clarksdale received a $4.815 million Facilities Investment Fund loan from Civic Builders, which was used for renovations of the school’s existing space as well as the construction of two new buildings. Together, the new spaces added additional classrooms, science labs, a cafeteria, administrative offices, and a library.

For the community Clarksdale serves, the new classrooms have had a transformative impact. “At capacity, we will have 525 for the whole space. Our original building only held 150 scholars. We were able to let in students who had been on the waitlist for years.” The project was also a tangible display of mobility and progress. “This is a significant project in a small town with not a lot of construction and there’s a lot of excitement about that. There’s just a lot of vacant spaces here and this would have been another one.”

A New Trajectory
“The overall student achievement rates historically are low in this community but the kids here are great and have amazing potential, they just need opportunities.” With her daughters now in the second and fifth grade, Amanda’s goals for the future of Clarksdale are to continue to foster educational change in the place she calls home. “We’re trying to do something different here in town. We are contributing to the work for other local change agents to shift the trajectory of our community by ensuring our scholars have opportunity filled futures.”

← Return to Stories