Following the passing of the previous Assistant Principal (AP) Gary Grosicki, Jefferson hired Volita Russell to fill the position for the new school year. Having worked for charter schools in the District of Columbia for 13 years, Russell welcomed the change to a public school in a different county. Most of all, the shift in school environment brought anticipation for a new year and new beginnings.
“I was looking forward to the first day…the day I got the call…the day I got my ID picture. Everything was a celebratory moment for me,” Russell said. “You value your teachers, and you value your staff and your school community, so I looked forward to being a part of that value system and adding to that value system.”
In the past, the schools she had worked with were much smaller, with the largest school containing no more than 300 students. As a result, Russell experienced a feeling of disconnect with the larger, and in some aspects more impersonal, community at Jefferson.
“You guys live in neighboring counties, but when you work in the city, you see your kids outside of the regular school day,” Russell said. “I miss the small knit community. When you have a small community, the teachers almost did everything together. The students knew all the teachers’ names. You knew all the students’ names. You knew the parents’ names, [even] some of the sibling’s names. I definitely miss building those close relationships because we were a small school.”
However, a smaller community also meant less resources for the students within it, and there existed significant differences between the socioeconomic backgrounds of the students of her previous schools and her current students at Jefferson.
“Your aspirations are very similar, but your means of being able to accomplish your aspirations are very different,” Russell said. “Your resources are very different. Your neighborhood looks very different. Sometimes, the motivational factors in your life are completely different.”
In addition, the demographics of her old school were drastically different from that of Jefferson, with her previous schools consisting of a majority African-American or Latino population.
“One of my schools was 50% Latino and 50% African-American,” Russell said. “I learned a little Spanish while I worked there because we translated everything, all the time, for the students and the school.”
For Russell, her greatest enjoyment in being at Jefferson is being immersed in the learning the atmosphere, not only as an administrator, but as someone continuously absorbing knowledge as well..
“Being able to walk around the different labs, remembering things from college is exciting. I feel like I’m in school again a little bit, so I just look forward to coming here every day,” Russell said. “I feel like I’m growing, I’m learning, I’m prospering, while also helping you guys grow, learn and prosper.”