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Students give a thumbs up after receiving awards for perfect attendance.
MyVillage project is a Florida-based nonprofit collective of Black-led grassroots organizations dedicated to maximizing educational resources for Black students.

Bringing Community Together to Improve Academic Outcomes for Black Students

February 2, 2023
Ronnie King
MyVillage Project is building a model for Black-led groups leading educational change

I've been involved in community work and volunteerism ever since I moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 2006. One of the things I realized early on was that you have two different nonprofit worlds. You have grassroots organizations that are doing almost all their work using volunteers and working with a very small budget. And then you have organizations with multi-million-dollar budgets committed for several years, but they don’t always reflect the community.

Ronnie King is cofounder of MyVillage Project.
Ronnie King is cofounder of MyVillage Project.

I cofounded MyVillage Project because we saw a need to coordinate and grow Black grassroots organizations within our community. We needed more programs and initiatives that improve academic outcomes for students of color.

If we are going to address issues in the Black community, grassroots organizations should be leading from the front—not just bringing them to the table or trying to get their opinion.

Our mission is to build the most autonomous educational platform for the Black community.

We've tried a lot of different programs and strategies in the Black community, but we haven't seen the kind of turnaround we want. The one thing we have not tried is allowing Black-led organizations to be the ones leading the change.

Bringing community together is hard work. We can do it, but we have to be thoughtful in our approach. I think too often we see a great program that works for 100 students and we try to dump a lot of money in that program and hope it scales right.

It takes community, and we can't do it without them.
Ronnie King

But there is no one program out there that's going to be able to scale across the nation. We need these pockets of communities to come together. It takes community, and we can't do it without them.

Success comes from finding common alignment and doing the work. Too often, everybody has their agenda and goal they’re trying to accomplish. When you get stuck in that, you can't find room to collaborate. The best way to get partnership and collaboration going is to make decisions fast and try something out—get people working together. You know, we can do a lot of meetings and theorizing on things, but if we can get together and actually work together, that builds trust in the partnership.

Four adults stand in a classroom, behind a table with boxes titled You've Earned This.
MyVillage Project's You've Earned This campaign awards prizes to students for perfect attendance. The contents include toys and gift cards for students.

We believe that changing educational outcomes for students across an entire community requires the knowledge and expertise of parents, families and churches. They are the most impactful educators in children's lives.

It’s not easy establishing and maintaining the collective trust of an entire community. But it’s exciting work – and organizations like MyVillage Project can spark that buy-in needed to scale programs that students need.

I’m hopeful about the future for our kids because I've experienced so much genuine volunteerism from within the Black community. There is an authentic desire to help students. I believe we’ll see transformational change once we mix the Black community's willingness to give back with the resources and tools necessary to collaborate on educational outcomes.

People need to understand that no matter how strong your one program is, we need each other’s programs to really make this thing work. I’m passionate about STEM and technology, but I can’t run my program successfully unless someone else is doing a program to help kids read and do math. We’re all in this together.

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