By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
A love of education
New education director at the Boys and Girls Club
BGC-Virginia-Lawley-IMG 214
Virginia Lawley

For Virginia Lawley, becoming the new Education Director at the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boys and Girls Club was a way of returning to where she started.

Lawley’s first job out of college at Kent State University in Ohio was as an education director for a Boys and Girls Club.

“In a greedy kind of way, it’s one of the places I’ve experienced the most success,” said the energetic mother of two. She explained she was still in touch with kids from her first time as an education director and knew they had gone on to successful lives.

“This is the kind of job you can see the results. You can see kids that had behavior issues that now don’t or had bad grades and now have good grades. That’s personally rewarding to me,” she said.

Lawley, 46, spent many years taking on short term education-related and community projects as she moved frequently for her husband’s career. She also moved frequently growing up, the daughter of an American mother and Cuban father whose work also took him many places.

After deciding to put down roots in Georgia with her sons, the Cumming resident began looking for something that brought as much satisfaction as her first job and quickly found the newly created education director position at the Barksdale club.

The Barksdale club is one of the eight metro Atlanta Boys and Girls Clubs chosen to pilot an education initiative funded by a $4.4 million grant over three years from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation.

The funding provides for a full time education director, technology and computers, academic tracking programs, and other programs such as Story Cove and Learning Through Sports. The goals of the pilot program include a focus on critical milestones such as third grade readiness, a successful transition to high school and college, and producing concrete, measurable outcomes. The club has also been coordinating with the Rockdale County Public School system about club members’ academic performance.

Lawley said in the nine months since she’s come to the Barksdale club, she can already see improvements in performance.

She eagerly displayed a matrix of all the members’ scores on the Learning Through Sports computer program where kids answer age-adjusted academic questions and are rewarded by a few minutes of computer game time. When the club members first started, many of the scores were below expectation across the board, said Lawley. But now, there were only a few areas of weakness.

She also described other new programs, such as the Youth Advisory Council, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) focused summer programs, and practices, such as displaying academic recognitions in the hallway.

“Kids are funny people,” she observed. “If they care what you think, their behavior will change. They may not actually care about math, but they care if I’m checking and making sure that I know they’re doing it. That itself creates a huge change.”