Taking Back Our Streets: “The Woodlawn Way”

Updated: Aug. 14, 2018 at 11:44 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Things are looking up at Woodlawn Leadership Academy.

Test scores are up. The Knights had winning football and basketball last school year.

Now the goal is to keep the students motivated and help them soar even higher.

School leaders say that they want to bring back the "Knight Pride" and that they need the community to help them do that.

This weekend, the school is holding its first Meet the Knights community carnival from 4 to 8 p.m. in the courtyard area.

Visitors will be able to visit with band members, football players, cheerleaders and more.

English teacher Dorian Ford, the event's organizer, says there will be plenty of food, games, music and more.

School leaders say they want to change the negative stigma that has followed Woodlawn for years, primarily because of the Cedar Grove neighborhood it is surrounded by.

Cedar Grove has had its share of problems with violence.

Woodlawn Leadership Academy principal Grady Smith says, "We want to be a catalyst of change. We want to be a destination high school of the students in Caddo Parish."

The enrollment numbers are up as well as more students are choosing to attend Woodlawn, a school that graduated the likes of star football athletes Billy Laird, Joe Ferguson and NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw.

In recent years, the school has struggled but now seems to be getting its magic back.

For the first time since 1979, the football team made it to the third round. The Woodlawn boys' basketball team was one shot away from winning state; and the girls' team made it to state. The hard work netted 19 student athletes scholarships to college.

Smith says he wants another record year, but better.

"First of all, academically, we are going to have a banner year. We are striving to make sure our EOC scores are on the rise. We are wanting all of our seniors to walk across that stage in May."

Ford says they need the community to help them grow. "The community is vital because you are the heartbeat. We want the community to be proud about the school that's in your neighborhood."

Ford says she uses reality to teach students. Even though the environment around them can be challenging because of the violence, she explains, school leaders and community leaders need to be proactive instead of reactive.

"We try to give them those tools they need now so once they get out of high school they won't fall into those same trenches."

She says there are brilliant students who live in the Cedar Grove area, but they are choosing to be bussed to other schools.

She says she wants to show those students and their parents the Woodlawn Way.

Last school year. 184 out of 188 students graduated from Woodlawn Leadership Academy.

Smith says the goal this year is to have every student graduate.

Woodlawn also is working to prepare the students for life after high school, Smith says.

"When they leave Woodlawn, they are prepared to walk into any school, whether it be a two-year school, four-year school, vocational school. We want to make sure they are prepared for life."

He adds, "We try to show them a model of professional men and women who are on campus.

"Some of them went through the same struggles you went through, so don't give up. We try to mentor. We try to pat them on the back when they fall down. We are first ones to pick them up and let them know this is not the end. We believe in second chances."

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