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DSCN0019.JPGEditorial | By Nehemiah D. Frank

In 2014, fifteen African-American Tulsans formed the Tulsa C.A.R.E. Alliance. The acronym C.A.R.E. stands for Creative Action to Reform Eduction.

The group, eager and self-charged with the duty of ending the school-to-prison pipeline which predominately affects African-American students, spent a year traveling around the country attending high-performing African-American schools with the aim of finding the recipe for success.

These high-performing schools, they visited, were the once-failing schools in high-poverty stricken neighborhoods. Hopeless because the life chances of graduating and keeping out of prison were astronomically at a low probability.

But something happened, those failing schools were somehow able to turn around, develop a formula for success, and began producing some of the top performing test scores in the country.

And so, Tulsa C.A.R.E focused specifically on the root causes of what made this particular school system the academic epicenters of achievement for that community.

The group honed in on a system of 6 now successful, once-failing, schools in Memphis, Tenn – Gestalt Community Schools (GCS).


GCS started as a simple idea, in a church amongst the program’s co-founders: Yetta Lewis, who is now the CEO of the program and Derwin Sisnett the programs Senior Advisor.

Gestalt’s Philosophy

“Great schools don’t exist in a vacuum; they work against themselves if developed without the community in mind. Thus a hallmark of Gestalt is creating great schools that build better communities.”

Main Focus

“We choose to serve low-income communities in Memphis, Tennessee that have failing schools. Then we catalyze grassroots leadership to revitalize the neighborhood, educate the youth through high-performing schools, and partner with providers to tackle out-of-school challenges that hinder students from succeeding.”


“Since today’s scholars are tomorrow’s citizens, we ensure every student is community-ready by including service learning in our curriculum. Scholars give back to their communities and reflect on what that service means to them personally and to the world around them.”

The importance of giving back to the community is one of the hallmarks that makes this program all the much more special. The Gestalt program teachers the importance of nation building and collectivism, which were the foundations of our, own, communities infamous Negro Wall Street.

GCS’s Academic Model

The Gestalt Academic Model is composed of six components:

1. Blended Learning
2. Inclusive Practices
3. Response to Instruction and Intervention
4. Data-Driven Instruction
5. Project-Based Learning
6. Social Emotional Learning


1. Blended Learning – Our model combines the best of teacher instruction with integrated technology. Blended learning provides scholars the opportunity to use computers for individualized and digital learning groups. These groups provide assignments based on the individual learner’s skill deficits, thus creating customized, differentiated assignments.


2. Inclusive Practices – Our instructional model ensures students with disabilities are included in general education classes for the majority of the school day. Inclusion provides the structure for students to access and progress in the general curriculum.

3. Response to Instruction & Intervention (RTI2) – Our model is driven by high-quality instruction combined with academic and behavior interventions tailored to meet scholar’s individual needs.


4. Data Driven Instruction – Our instructional decisions are driven by the results from multiple student assessments. Data-driven instruction is about using the data to identify conceptual gaps and developing instruction to fill them appropriately.

5. Project Based Learning – Our model encourages a variety of real-world learning experiences, which extend beyond the classroom to each scholar’s home, community, nation, and the world. Gestalt scholars, parents, and staff are all charged with the mission to leave our community better than we found it.

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6. Social Emotional Learning – Our model provides a comprehensive, individualized online reporting tool that brings academic, basic needs, and socio-emotional data together to meet the needs of the scholar.


The new Greenwood Leadership Academy, scheduled to open this fall, plans to use a model similar to GCS’s; although, with a few adjustments to fit the needs of the students of North Tulsa.

Gestalt’s Graduation Successes 


Class of 2017
– 100% graduated
– 100% accepted to college
– Earned more than $30 million in scholarships

Class of 2016
– 100% graduated
– 100% accepted to college
– Earned more than $13 million in scholarships
– Performed more than 10,000 community service hours over 4 years

Class of 2015
– 100% graduated
– 100% accepted to college


The Greenwood Leadership Academy was created under similar circumstances as GCS.  Societal structures making it difficult for African American children to succeed in the public school system. Therefore, the idea of having a similar program to serve African-American students in North Tulsa makes perfect sense. And although GLA will not be able to serve all of the students of our community, it is a start, a stepping stone, a ribbon cutting ceremony to the brighter days ahead of us “Greenwood citizens,” and our worthy kids.

For more information about the new Greenwood Leadership Academy and how to enroll your child follow the link below to their schools website:


Part 3 – Coming Soon! |The Return of Black Excellence: Meet the GLA DreamTeam


Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...

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