JHOP teachers watching a video on Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll
By Dexter McCree, Feature Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – The new principal of John Hopkins Middle School (JHOP) asked a group of new teachers what comes to their mind when they hear Silver Lake. The responses, or lack thereof, indicated their newness to the area surrounding the school.
The teachers started their school year by taking a bus tour, sponsored by Greater Mt. Zion AME Church, in the Midtown area. The purpose of the tour was to provide teachers who are new to Pinellas County, St. Petersburg and JHOP an opportunity to see part of the community where a large portion of the population they will be serving live.
With the new school year starting, the teachers got a chance to see for the first time a perspective of living that the kids have seen all their lives.
“It’s important to know about the people that we serve and the families that we partner,” said Dr. Dallas Jackson, principal of JHOP. “Not only do we have brand new teachers to John Hopkins, but we have teachers that are new to the area. They have no clue what the kids are talking about when they mention Silver Lake, Play Lot, Three Brothers (store), JP (Jordan Park) or Midtown. The tour turned out well and they appreciated the environment acuity talk.”
The day started with the teachers watching a video about Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll. This young man was an intelligent student who went astray and ended up in prison where he discovered the stock market.
Through friends and family on the outside, he invested in the stock market from San Quentin State Prison in northern California and became an informal financial adviser to fellow inmates and correctional officers.
“It’s important to understand the heart of what’s been crippling our society. The video tells about the brilliance of children and we need to find the Wall Street in them,” explained Jackson.
The tour bus started at JHOP and headed east on 7th Avenue. With the principal narrating, he noted Citrus Grove Apartments and a brief history of Bethel Heights. Coming up quickly was Campbell Park Recreational Center where the tennis courts, football field and the swimming pool are named after educator Olive B. McLin.
The trip continued to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street before heading south.
The sight of Booker Creek to the immediate left brought out memories and a lot of stories that were put on pause for the sake of time. As the group continued on the historical journey, one of the veteran teachers pointed out the Davis-Bradley building and the connection to former Chief of Police Goliath Davis and for Representative Rudy Bradley.
With the bus heading west on 18th Avenue, it brought into view the James Weldon Johnson Library and the Enoch Davis Center, a frequently used community meeting place. Posted in several lawns were “Not My Son” yard signs, the city’s campaign to save African-American males. This quickly became part of the travel discussion.
The 16th Street corridor introduced the teachers to the Morris Milton Post Office, Connie’s BBQ, the history of Red’s Snak Shak, Melrose Elementary, JHOP’s feeder school in journalism and media studies.
As they made their way over to 22nd Street, the hotel where Negro League Baseball players stayed when they came to town, St. Petersburg College (Midtown campus), the Royal Theater, Galleria 909 and the Creole Café were all pointed out.
The final leg of the tour took them past the Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum, Jordan Park School and the interstate that uprooted many families and business, bringing blight to the area.
This small tour through parts of Midtown explained the history of the area gave insight into the lives of the students they will teach.
“I really enjoyed the tour. I thought it was very informative learning about the community,” stated Tatyana Arnold, a sixth-grade language and literature teacher from Chicago. “The thing that is most interesting is the idea that a principal would take his staff to learn about the student they will be teaching. I have never seen this done before.”
Now when the new teachers hear talk of students going to get a drink from Three Brothers, they will know that there aren’t three siblings at the school supplying a thirst quencher.