Emboldened with a vision of a thriving north Tulsa, TU alumna Ebony Easiley (BFA ’14) is cultivating young community leaders. As the director of operations at Greenwood Leadership Academy, Easiley incorporates technology, citizenship, entrepreneurship and rigorous academics in the classroom. By transforming the neighborhood with holistic education and economic growth, Easiley is giving back to a place she calls home.
Down the street from her childhood home, Greenwood Leadership Academy is Oklahoma’s first partnership school that is a hybrid between a charter school and public school. “We have control of our own curriculum and how we run the school, but we have the support of Tulsa Public Schools, which provides the facility, transportation and food,” Easiley said.
In the fall, Greenwood Leadership Academy will begin classes starting with pre-K through first grade in the Academy East Central building. Each year, the new leadership academy will add another grade, which will slowly phase out the traditional Academy East Central classes. The leadership academy will accept neighborhood children first and then open it up to a lottery system for any child in Tulsa.
Inspired by the tight-knit TU community, Easiley hopes to institute a strong sense of fellowship in the neighborhood. “I always feel like I have family back at TU, and I can go there if I need help or advice,” Easiley said. Part of ensuring a spirit of unity is involving the neighborhood at the school’s conception. “We’re not coming in and saying, ‘This is how you need to fix it.’ Instead, we are asking everyone who has lived here in our community how we can fix it together,” Easiley explained.
An integral step to balancing education inequity is a focus on black excellence. Easiley applauds Tulsa’s relatively new willingness to recognize the achievements of Black Wall Street, and the leadership academy will not allow the black heroes, innovators and trailblazers to remain unsung. “Black excellence is everyone’s excellence because we are all contributing to the greater human race,” Easiley said.
Easiley’s dream for north Tulsa only begins in the classroom. For a community to prosper, resources are vital. “We don’t have a grocery store, a mall or a movie theater. The basic essential things that you don’t normally think about if you live within an environment that houses that,” Easiley explained. The hope is Greenwood Leadership Academy will act as a catalyst for economic progress in the neighborhood.
Easiley’s connection to north Tulsa took root as a child. She reveled in its rich history and hoped to emulate the leaders of the past. While attending TU as a graphic design major, Easiley found opportunities to hone her leadership skills. As president of the Association of Black Collegians, she attended “leadership workshops that opened up my mind and changed the way I thought.” But it was her time studying abroad in Spain that shaped her values on understanding different cultures. “It gives you a new perspective on how to think about other topics or even your way of life.”
Easiley appreciates the significance of her own culture and is eager to share it. “My life has gone full circle. I come from this city, and this city raised me. It’s only right for me to give back to the city,” she said.