Main Street Academy is Branded For Knowledge
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
NOVEMBER 13, 2014 – Whenever you’re out and about, people are automatically sizing you up, says Bobby Kimbrough, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“They come to a conclusion,” he said. “Somebody is branding you good, bad or indifferent.”
He wants to help students at Main Street Academy be “branded for knowledge.”
“The only thing that is going to emancipate us is knowledge,” Kimbrough said to Main Street students. “If we can change the atmosphere, we can change the outcome.”
As of today, students at Main Street will be clearly branded for knowledge when they head out into the world on field trips.
In addition to his work for the Justice Department, Kimbrough owns a company called Branded For Knowledge that makes shirts. This morning, Kimbrough and Denise Smith, the company’s chief operations officer, brought Branded for Knowledge T-shirts for all 100 Main Street students. Whenever students go on field trips, they will wear the shirts, said Garrett Davis, a transition coordinator at Main Street.
Teachers were already wearing Branded for Knowledge polo shirts.
Today was about much more than T-shirts and polo shirts, though. “This is the start of something great,” Davis said.
Kimbrough told students that he is forming a partnership with the school and that he and his company will support Main Street in any way that he can. “All the resources I have available to me, I’m going to share them with you,” he told the students.
Main Street has two programs. One is The Leadership Academy at Main Street. Students choose to go to the Leadership Academy. Other students at Main Street are assigned there after serious violations of the school system’s code of student conduct and stay until they have completed a successful quarter. One of the goals at Main Street is to help those students get on track to success in school and in life.
“At the end of the day,” Davis said to the students, “you are your own brand. At what point are you going to speak up for your own life?”
In his life, Kimbrough said, he has seen what happens when people make the wrong choices, and, as retirement approaches, he has been asking himself what he could do to help young people educate themselves about making the right choices.
“I wanted to know ‘How can I make a difference?’” he said.
The partnership with Main Street is one way he has answered that question.
Kimbrough grew up in Winston-Salem. He went to Lowrance when it was an elementary school and on to Wiley before graduating from North Forsyth High School in 1979. Along the way, he said, he had the good fortune to have a friend who said, “You’re better than that” when the friend saw him making some bad choices.
From a city park where he spent time, he could see planes taking off from Smith Reynolds Airport. As he thought about making positive changes in his life, he imagined one day flying off in one of those places to see the world.
“I started believing and I started dreaming,” he told the students.
He imagined becoming like James T. West, one of the Secret Service agents on the television show The Wild, Wild West. He changed the way he dressed, and he changed the way he acted.
After going to Pfeiffer University on a basketball scholarship, Kimbrough ended up graduating from High Point University while working as a police officer in Winston-Salem.
He went on to work for the state’s probation/parole programs and earned a master’s degree at N.C. A&T State University before going to work for the Justice Department in 1994. He has met every president in office since then, he told the students, and he has been to the White House four or five times.
“God smiled on me,” he said.
When Principal Ron Travis spoke, he talked to the students about how everyone who works at Main Street is there by choice because they want to help students succeed. “It’s important for you to know that we love you,” Travis said.
This new partnership, he told students, shows them that people beyond the walls of the school also want them to succeed.
“Somebody other than us outside of the walls believes in you,” he said. “If someone believes in you, you owe it to yourself to believe in yourself.”
Carol Montague-Davis, the school system’s assistant superintendent for secondary education, and Gwen Johnson-Green, the school system’s director of alternative education, were on hand for the program.
Hill said, “I'm looking forward to this powerful partnership.”
“We are very excited about being here,” Smith said. “I am proud to be a part of such a beautiful partnership.”
In the course of the program, Marilyn Holder, who teaches history, and Sandra Petty, who teaches math, were acknowledged for all they do to make students academically successful.
Afterward, Petty said, “My goal is for them to be successful in the subject and successful as people.”
“When they say, ‘This is the hardest I have worked,’” Holder said, “I take that as a compliment.”
This is Travis’ first year leading Main Street. One of his goals is to create a more positive – and lighter – atmosphere at the school and to develop a more positive reputation for the school in the community. The addition of The Leadership Academy, which is new this year, is one way to do that. Expanding the connections with the community is another.
Larry Berry, a transition coordinator at Main Street, pointed out some of the other recent positive changes. Assistant principal Lakeisha Hill has made improvements in technology that have made it possible to collect data and communicate more effectively. Main Street is being spruced up. The purple stage curtain is brand-new, he said, and walls have been painted throughout the building.
“I have never seen so many changes in such a short period of time,” Berry said.
And the expanding support from the community is making a big difference, too, Berry said. “We’re also offering a lot more opportunities for students to go outside the school. That’s what these kids need.”
Earlier this week, students visited the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro. Other field trips planned for the days ahead include ones to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and to Forsyth Technical Community College.
Davis said that Kimbrough will be mentoring students and that field trips that introduce them to his world are planned, too.