Second-year student Brenttia Clayton has organized a Virtual College Readiness Academy through her own small business, Teachable Moments, and in partnership with REAL Scholars, an Arkansas nonprofit dedicated to providing educational services and youth empowerment.
The virtual academy is scheduled for November 1-5 and registration is now available online. Registration is available online and the fee is $10.
Clayton’s virtual academy will include some of the hallmarks of classic college prep academies – testimony from college graduates, advice from current students, virtual college fairs – but will feature a unique emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, commonly known as HBCUs.
“We will be focusing specifically on HBCUs for many reasons,” Clayton said. “HBCUs teach the essence of Black/African American history and culture. It gives students of color a chance to see themselves represented in a positive light and a community of strength, pride, and love.”
The academy’s opening night on Monday, November 1 will place the focus on HBCU history. Each subsequent night will provide a closer look at specific colleges and universities. Attendees of the academy will hear from graduates and current students from local schools like the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Philander Smith College, and other institutions across the country, including Morehouse College, Spelman College, North Carolina A&T State University, and North Carolina Central University. The final day will include a virtual college fair featuring HBCU recruiters.
“HBCUs were never advertised at my high school, even though our school population was predominantly African American,” said Clayton, who grew up in Osceola, Ark. “I wanted to provide a space where students can learn about the rich history of these schools and consider them as options.”
Clayton organized the academy with the help of her network of friends, former colleagues, and family members from across the country. Talethe Collins, founder of REAL Scholars, is a former classmate of Clayton’s from UA Little Rock. Multiple Clinton School students and graduates – who Clayton met through UACS – are set to participate:
- Felicia Kennedy, a second-year student and graduate of UAPB, will teach the history of HBCUs
- Tim Campbell, a 2021 Clinton School graduate, will share his experiences as a graduate of UAPB
- Essence Thomas, a second-year student and graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans, La., will discuss the lessons learned from her undergraduate experience
“I wanted people who were passionate about these schools that they attended to be a part of the academy,” Clayton said. “The people that I pulled together, they all have these beautiful stories that could be shared with kids to help them understand what they could gain from going to one of these schools.”
In addition to the stories and lessons attendees will hear, the first 30 high school juniors and seniors who register for the academy will receive a binder with several college prep resources, including contact information of the academy’s presenters and school recruiters, ACT test prep materials, a FAFSA application checklist, tips on professionalism, and school supplies. Student will also have the chance to win a $500 scholarship.
For Clayton, the Virtual College Readiness Academy is the latest in a series of innovative and impactful initiatives focused on education.
After earning her degree in education from UA Little Rock in 2017, Clayton spent three years as a classroom teacher in Newark, N.J. That experience offered her a first-hand look at how many students from the communities she was serving weren’t receiving the same educational resources and opportunities as others. She wanted to build a community-based program to give those kids an extra resource for education outside of school.
Clayton officially founded Teachable Moments in June 2020, just months after the pandemic ended her classroom teaching experience early and made virtual learning a sudden reality. The idea for the name came from her realization that, as a teacher, you have “many teachable moments throughout your day.”
“I came to the realization that I could reach more kids if I started my own virtual educational platform, while also using my gift of teaching freely,” said Clayton, who initiated Teachable Moments by offering free tutoring services.
When she enrolled at the Clinton School later that summer, she knew she wanted to use the school's curriculum and resources to grow and develop her own ideas for innovative education. She had a breakthrough when working on an assignment for Program Planning and Development, a first-semester course taught by Dr. Al Bavon.
Clayton conducted a needs assessment aimed at improving educational opportunities in vulnerable Arkansas populations, much like her hometown of Osceola. After the needs assessment showed that there are many Arkansas students facing the same challenges she faced, she got to work on creating virtual academies to help.
She created two life skills academies, one to commemorate Black History Month in February 2021 and another in recognition of Women’s History Month in March 2021. The Virtual College Readiness Academy in November is another idea that grew out of the results of her need assessment.
“The Clinton School has given me the skills to bring this into fruition,” Clayton said. “The idea was there (for the life skills academies), I just didn’t know how to get started.”
Clayton is excited to impart some of the life lessons to high school students that she has learned on her journey, from Arkansas to New Jersey and back again. And this academy continues the evolution of her work with Teachable Moments. What started as a way for Clayton to provide online tutoring help has evolved into much more than that – teaching children important life skills by connecting their school lessons to their own lives.
“I love the fact that I can still be a teacher!” Clayton said. “I just now use my platform to create kid content based on research and life lessons that I’ve learned or wish I knew when I was their age.”
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.