Khadijah Fortenberry ’06
Whitfield School ’12, University of Mississippi ’16

I came to City Academy in 2005, a year after the school moved from Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club and into its new home across the street. I remember how excited the community was for the new edition. Each time my mother and I would drive pass the school, I bugged her about wanting to attend this new vibrant place that lit up Kingshighway Boulevard. I became so captivated by the idea that I often declared, “I am going to go to City Academy!” Finally, my persistence paid off, and here we are 12 years later.

As I reflect, I realize that City Academy began impacting my outlook on life long before my arrival. I was no more than 10 but I could see that this building had a positive impact on the community. I desperately wanted to be a part of that. When I joined this collective group of amazing individuals, I did not know I would be embarking on a continuous journey of academic enrichment and community engagement. City Academy molds and shapes beautifully inquisitive minds that constantly embrace the world around them. As a result, myself and over 180 alumni have been raised as lifelong learners and future community leaders.

As a student at City Academy, I learned how to communicate confidently and effectively. I learned to ask questions and the importance of taking an analytical approach to consuming information. I learned how to truly be empathetic and compassionate towards others. Most importantly, I learned to be an effective team player. While here, City Academy provided my peers and me with a safe space to flourish as creative individuals. This is attributed to a support system of exceptional educators with bold expectations, as well as City Academy’s encouragement of family involvement. The unique foundation here empowered us all to explore and gain valuable experiences.

When I first received the news that City Academy was breaking ground on a new development, I thought, “Wow! Look at how far this organization has come.” I was simply amazed and more motivated than ever to help support the mission that has helped mold me into the individual I am today.

How I got to today consists of a continued relationship with City Academy, even after sixth grade graduation. No matter where I was, the school provided me with exceptional resources. Whether it was help with secondary school placement, tutoring, ACT prep, college placement, or even access to internships and career exploration support, City Academy was always there.

During high school, I was fortunate enough to be one of the first participants in City Academy’s Strive for College program at Washington University. Through Strive, I worked to prepare for college admissions while receiving guidance on essay writing, testing and scholarship search. Strive is just one of the ways City Academy acted as a resource.

In addition to this unique opportunity, City Academy had a major influence in my senior project at Whitfield School. Graduating from Whitfield in 2012, I went on to attend the University of Mississippi, where I obtained a bachelors of Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing. During undergrad, I was fortunate to have secured internships each summer- City Academy being one of them. During my internship, I gained a new perspective on the school and the mission. I worked with the administration and development teams to support alumni, community outreach, and endowment. My involvement helped me to appreciate the operations of the school and see first-hand the profound commitment of each staff member. The work experience I gained at City Academy proved highly beneficial both during and after my studies.

My alma mater has this saying, “The University is respected, but Ole Miss is loved. The University gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss.” I use this interchangeably as it pertains to my relationship with City Academy. Even over 300 miles away, I often found myself returning home – home to City Academy, that is. From my first day at City Academy, I learned that I was confined only by my own limitations, and that if I did not set limitations, anything was possible . At this moment, I knew I belonged. The funny thing is, I still belong.

My commitment to support City Academy stems from a deeply rooted place of passion. As a first-generation college graduate, I am passionate about providing education to minorities and under-resourced communities. Thankfully, City Academy provides me with opportunities to engage with that passion. I have the honor of not only representing this institution as an alumna, but in several other leadership roles at the school. I serve on the Alumni Committee, Young Friends Committee, and Education Committee. All three of these roles allow me to contribute to the growth of City Academy in different capacities. In addition to serving in these positions, I spend two Saturdays each month during the school year helping alumni grades 7-12 through the Strive for College program at Washington University.

I give back because true change does not rest in the hands of one person. We all have a responsibility to strengthen and support our communities. I feel so fortunate to be part of a place like City Academy that can change the world by inspiring and empowering young leaders who rise to the very challenge of community transformation.

 Written by Khadijah Fortenberry ’06 (Whitfield School ’12, University of Mississippi ’16)

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