Joi Taylor is a Memphis native and advocate for students to have access to the education setting that works for them. A scholarship alumna of independent schools in Memphis, Joi shared her story before lawmakers in Tennessee in support of Education Savings Accounts:
There is power in opportunity. A chance to rewrite your family history. A chance to blaze a path for the generations to come…who wouldn’t want that?
That’s what going to an independent school provided for me. My name is Joi Taylor and I am a proud graduate of two independent schools in Memphis, Tennessee: New Hope Christian Academy, my elementary school and Evangelical Christian School, my middle and high school.
Picture this: a seventeen-year-old senior in high school who just had her first child, not having the slightest clue on what to do, but knowing how she lived her life should not be the same way her child lives. I am that child. I had a mom and a grandmother who desperately wanted something better for me. They did whatever it took to make sure better was my reality.
I lived in a ZIP code where poverty ran rampant. My grandmother was a strong voice in my life and she diligently sought opportunities for us to escape the harsh realities of our community. She heard about the wonders of New Hope Christian Academy and knew that in order for my life to be different we had to choose a different path. And she knew that it all starts with an exceptional and high-quality education.
This opportunity set me on a path that charged me with the power to break the image of what comes out of my community, of what comes out of my ZIP code. New Hope instilled in me the importance of hard work and servant leadership, teaching me to dream bigger of what my future could actually hold. Evangelical Christian School taught me academic discipline. It stretched me beyond measure preparing me for college and provided extracurricular activities that pushed my thinking and challenged my worldview.
I graduated from the University of Memphis Magna Cum Laude with a degree in social work. While a lot of factors play into why I was able to accomplish something so wonderful, the truth of the matter is that I couldn’t have done it without the foundation private schools laid for me. I now work for one of the top nonprofit consulting firms in the city of Memphis and this was all made possible because of the connection with my elementary school.
I would not have had these opportunities without independent schools. I want more students who are just like me, and who come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, to get a chance to break the chains of poverty. I’m advocating for more kids to have the experience I did to have a chance to rewrite their family’s outcome. I truly believe that every family and student deserves to make the decision when it comes to their education and have access to any school in their community.