Former First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” The Breaking the Mold Series is about highlighting and shining a light on Black female school leaders in Indianapolis who are making a difference. This week, we celebrate new school leader India Hui and her quest to open the world to students in Indianapolis.
India Hui is the new founding school leader Thrival World Academies: Indy. Born in Kentucky, but raised a Hoosier after moving here at the age of 5, India graduated from Warren Central High School and attended Indiana University where she majored in secondary English education. She has worked in the traditional public school setting and charter. She spent time in a predominately white school district in Brownsburg, a charter school named after an Indianapolis legend Andrew J. Brown, and predominately African American school Stonybrook in Warren Township. She knew her entire life that she wanted to be an educator. After teaching for six years, she began to pursue school administration. This summer she becomes one of the new Mind Trust Fellows and will be launching a revolutionary idea that will provide students with a future far brighter than the reality they live. Thrival’s goal is to provide students a global perspective on education.
David McGuire: India what does it mean to finally get your chance to lead a school?
India Hui: It’s not about me as much as it is about the kids and families I am serving now as well as the teachers I get to lead. That’s why I wanted to get into leadership in the first place; I know I have talents to give to teachers and students, and I’m just happy to have the opportunity to do it. The pressure is on. I worked hard to get this opportunity, so I have to prove that I deserve it and am the woman for the job.
DM: What is Thrival World Academies?
IH: Thrival Academy: Indy is a unique one-year free public charter school for high school juniors. What is most unique about our school is that we take our students on a study abroad experience; this year we are going to Thailand for 3.5 months. Before we leave the States, we focus on project-based and community-based learning as well as service learning. Each of our students receives a Chromebook. In addition to the courses every student takes, such as statistics and environmental science, they will take whatever courses they need individually in order to graduate on track and on time. Another aspect of our school which is unique is the public capstone projects students present at the end of the year. When we return from Thailand, our students will present exhibitions of learning which exhibit their personal growth and experiences from the year.
DM: What do you hope to accomplish with Thrival World Academies?
IH: My goal is to expand the worldview of kids who may have never left the Midwest before. I want them to see the boundless possibilities out there, and I want them to see something in themselves they never knew was there. My hope is that we send these students back to their own high schools for senior year with not only awesome college essays but also leadership skills that will help transform their communities.
DM: What challenges do you anticipate with Thrival World Academies?
IH: One challenge I am facing right now is a lack of interest. I’m not sure if people think it costs money or is afraid to send their children so far away, but so far we only have 12 students signed up. We partner with an amazing organization called Rustic Pathways, and they handle all the risk management. It is as safe a study abroad experience as you will get, but that message hasn’t gotten out to parents. Another challenge I’m anticipating is maintaining the level of funding we will need to keep this program free to students. That keeps me up some nights.
DM: Why are you so passionate about education?
IH: Malcolm X said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” I truly believe that every child deserves a quality education, and that is something that just isn’t happening. We are surrounded by hopeless communities because they were not afforded a quality education. They see no value in tomorrow. I want to change that. I know that educating is my gift, and it is, therefore, my duty to use this gift to do my part in making the world a better place.
DM: When applying for jobs do you feel as though you were passed over because you were a Black female? If so, why?
IH: I honestly cannot tell you. I probably went on 20 or more interviews and made it to rounds two and three just about every time, but nothing ever worked out. Sometimes I received reasonable feedback like, “We need someone with elementary experience.” I totally understand that. A few times the jobs went to someone in the school, district, or network. Perhaps my personality didn’t fit with the team of some of the other schools. I’m sure; there were varying reasons. I was told that I should change my hair when I interview. Perhaps my Black womanhood didn’t fit the traditional administrator mold.
DM: Do you feel any extra pressure being a Black female school leader? If so, how do you deal with the pressure?
IH: I don’t want to disappoint anyone. That’s pressure. I don’t want to prove that the people who didn’t believe in me are right. That’s pressure.
DM: What advice do you have for other Black female teachers who hope to be school leaders one day?
IH: My students told me not to give up on myself, so I would pass that along to future school leaders. Be secure in who you are, and know divine order is real; it will all work out the way it is supposed to, so don’t take a job just because you are desperate to get in the door. You’ll be miserable. Make sure that school aligns with your personal mission. Get your name out there. Be a presence in the education community.
DM: When you retire what do you want your legacy to be?
IH: When I was in high school I would say, “I’m going to win the Nobel Prize for changing the face of education.” I’m not worried about the recognition, but my mission is still very much to impact education on a large scale. Until I’m gone, I will always be a voice for the voiceless and an educator. When it’s all said and done, I want to be remembered as that relentless lady who would not stop until every kid received the same opportunities for a quality education.