(Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010)

Dr. Jennifer Porter-Smith

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Dr. Jennifer Porter-Smith

Dr. J and I met at the downtown Marriot for this interview, just a few buildings down the street from Nap Ford. After the interview, on our walk back to the school, a former student’s dad started waving at us ferociously.

“Hey! How you doin’?” Dr. J asked. She walked over and gave the man a hug.

“I’m good. I’m good. You’re never gonna believe how my son is doing. He scored a 1410 on the SAT as a seventh grader. The UCF student average is 1328. Can you believe that? That boy is so smart!” the man said, beaming.

“I always knew he would become something great. He excelled at math—always problem solving and playing with numbers,” Dr. J responded. She, too, was beaming.

As I watched the exchange, I became overwhelmed with joy. I had asked Dr. J to give me a success story, and now, there on Livingston Street, one was unveiling itself in front of my eyes. To see this parent invested in his child and rattling off school statistics was just as thrilling as hearing about the student’s great accomplishments. It was evident that the bond formed between school and family on the grounds of Nap Ford was responsible for the child’s success.

As someone who has spent a fair amount of time volunteering with the school’s gifted and talented classes, I can’t help but be an advocate for Nap Ford Community School. I’ve worked with these children, including those who are from the homeless coalition, and they are a unique, loving bunch.  Their life experience, even at such a young age, is beyond what the rest of us will ever endure—which is why I feel it important to take the extra time and find ways to help these kids—and every kid—articulate their thoughts. It’s their knowledge that we will be dependent upon in the near future.

*Below are a few excerpts found in Jana Waring’s Who’s That? Discovering Orlando One Interview at a Time. To read more about Dr. J’s thoughts on the future of education in Central Florida buy the book now!

Looking back, do you feel you received the best education available?
To be honest with you, I don’t even remember my education. [Laughs] So I don’t think I received the best education possible. I think that the teachers did the best that they could and the best that they knew how to do, but education in Florida has historically been underfunded.

As a child, what dreams did you strive for?
I drew all day and all night and I would write stories. Growing up I was bright, so everyone said that I should be a doctor or a lawyer—those were the careers that everyone knew about. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to the world and the different options out there.

As a parent, or principal, what advice do you offer other parents?
I’d say that as Americans we’re very volume driven.  A lot of times when our children come home we want to see pieces of paper, the things they’re bringing home. I’d love to see parents sit down and devote undivided attention to their children. Talk to them about the world and what their children feel they’re good at doing. I’d like parents to reinforce and give honor to that. The art of conversation—just sitting and listening to one another—has been lost.

*Visit napford.org to learn more about the school and how you can help.

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