Why you should care
Forget about lighting a candle. These educators want to light a fire.
To walk into Julie Jackson’s North Star Academy is to experience uplift as an active verb. The raucous, fun and cheering morning assemblies led by Jackson and other school leaders feature a few hundred black and brown kids essentially doing “math” jump rope in front of all of their classmates: “Quick, what’s 6 times 6? Double it. Subtract it from 100. Divide it by 4.” Almost every kid is on free or reduced lunch, which means they are poor. But the school’s students consistently outperform their counterparts in the state at every grade level, and an amazing 90 percent of North Star’s graduates enroll in four-year universities.
They don’t come more buttoned-up than John White. A native of Washington, D.C., the tie-wearing, lanky, fresh-faced 38-year-old looks more like a shiny new member of Congress than head of Louisiana’s challenged school system. So why does this single guy find himself in shirtsleeves at school meetings in bayou towns like Houma or largely African-American neighborhoods in New Orleans? And why is he stirring up the education reform movement?
When you love – really love – math and science, there’s no greater thrill than getting a college acceptance letter from MIT. Unless maybe your other life’s passion is IndyCar racing. In which case, you have a tough decision to make. JR Hildebrand is having it both ways.
Watch our story to hear what it’s like to sit in the driver’s seat of a car hurtling around corners at 240mph, and how Hildebrand plans to bring the excitement of the track to young math and science students around the country.