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Creating Change Agents

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Creating Change Agents

Dr. Marco Clark, CEO of Richard Wright Public Charter School, talks reading, writing, and inspiring the next generation of media professionals.

Richard Wright Public Charter School is not your typical high school. Dr. Marco Clark is not your typical principal. With ten hour school days and a curriculum focused on journalism and media arts, many Ward 7 residents agree that Richard Wright is a beacon of hope among a ward known for poverty, violence, and literacy challenges. In mid-January we got the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Marco Clark, whose own passion for education has helped shape an entire school.

“We have the greatest kids in the city, and that’s just hand’s down.” Dr. Clark describes what makes Richard Wright Public Charter School special and points to students as a key component. “This is a great school because every kid has an opportunity to be a leader. No matter if you’re shy or the loudest, most robust person in the building, everybody has a voice, every kid feels that my input matters.”

Unlike students enrolled in traditional high schools, cohorts at Richard Wright enjoy an array of hands-on coursework in broadcast journalism, photography, graphic arts, and film through the school’s Roxie Program.  “Students are going to learn graphic arts, design, and they’re going to learn how to be a technician, because you gotta have somebody behind the scenes to work the camera.”

Clark readily admits that the school’s focus on journalism and media arts is about more than creating media savvy students or student leaders. “Our goal is for them ultimately to become media contributors and change agents to the media. It’s time we present a different outlook than what our young people are being represented as.” Clark presents the news of the day’s shooting near Ballou Senior High School in which three teens were wounded as an example. “If you look at what happened today with the shooting…everybody’s harping on that, but nobody’s harping on the young people who came to school and did the right thing. We need to kill the idea that what bleeds, reads. We have to create our own media in order for their voices to be heard.”

Dr. Clark’s personal experience in education has also played a large role in the school’s ethos. Labeled as functionally illiterate at age 11, Clark went on to graduate from Clark Atlanta and Morgan State University after a wakeup call in his undergraduate biology class forced him to develop learning strategies that helped him succeed academically. “I decided that once I got on the other side that I would never have a child that would be in a situation like me. To be inside a classroom, dying and literally crying on the inside and yet…no one was bothering to try to help me adapt to the surrounding situation.”    

Despite the progress of Richard Wright students, Clark remains ambitious and views a holistic approach to educating students as central to their success. “Five years from now I look to have universities coming, calling to ask about my kids. Just passing the DC-CAS will be a thing of the past and it will be like, ‘yeah we did that, it’s just a test, yeah we’re ready for the SATs.’” For many Ward 7 residents, the expectation of excellence is a change in the right direction.

Learn more about the Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism & Media Arts at: http://www.voanews.com/media/video/666435.html.

Contact Dr. Marco Clark at marco.clark@richardwrightpcs.org.