Interview with Roszalyn Akins, November 9, 2015

Roszalyn Akins describes her family and childhood growing up in Lexington, Kentucky. She talks about transferring from an all-Black school to an integrated school, and her desire to keep up academically with the other students. She talks about her parents' occupations, and the positive relationship between her mother, stepfather, and father. Akins talks about growing up in a housing project in Lexington and the sense of community she felt growing up there. She talks about neighbors sharing food and looking after each other's children. She talks about why her family moved to the suburbs. Akins talks about her experiences at Leestown Junior High School, including the many activities she was involved in. She talks about attending Bryan Station High School and being class president. She talks about her childhood desire to attend Transylvania University and her friend's encouragement of her dream. Akins talks about being unhappy during her first year at Transylvania University, but says she adjusted and came to love the experience. She talks about being a pre-law major until an experience at her old high school with some teenage boys influenced her to change her major to education. She talks about being a substitute teacher while looking for permanent employment, and how she came to be a teacher at her old school, Leestown Middle School, where she taught for 27 years. Akins talks about a conference at her church, Shiloh Baptist, which led to her meeting her husband, Reverend C. B. Akins. She talks about their courtship and their discussion about the importance of religion in their lives. She talks about how he came to be the pastor at First Baptist Church Bracktown. Akins talks about the Bracktown community as a settlement of African Americans who once worked for Darby Dan Farm. She talks about the activities of First Baptist Church Bracktown, including their outreach to college students. She tells the story of needing more land for the church, how God told her to pray with her women's choir for a specific plot of land, and how the landowner was eventually convinced to sell them the land for one dollar. Akins talks about retiring from teaching and says she was asked to become interim principal at the school. She talks about noticing academic and discipline problems among African American male students and creating a Saturday Academy in an attempt to help them succeed. She talks about the beginnings of the program, when only 40 students were enrolled, and how the program became more successful over time. She talks about the methods used to instruct the boys, not only in academics but in discipline, etiquette, and other social lessons. She talks about the importance of taking the boys on field trips to historically Black colleges, and tells a story of taking them to Washington, D.C. where they were able to tour the White House. Akins talks about how, through the success of the BMW Academy, she was able to open the Carter G. Woodson Academy, an all-male college prep school. She gives many examples demonstrating the success of the students, including winning science fairs, college scholarships, and high standardized testing scores. She talks about her desire to create a middle school and an elementary school based on the same principles in order to reach at-risk students earlier in life. She tells emotional stories of the success of several of the academy's former students, including one who went on to play in the Prairie View College marching band.

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