Staff Spotlight: Mary Carlton

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carltonMary Carlton serves as the Director of Expanded Learning at Akili Academy. A graduate of Occidental College in California, Carlton holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban and Environmental Policy. She formerly worked with the Posse Foundation and New Orleans Outreach, serving the needs of at-risk youth in both organizations. She joined Akili full-time in 2013 to manage the after school program that serves 8o% of Akili scholars. She also oversees Akili’s partnership with the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, where scholars attend music lessons with professional musicians.

Day-to-day, Carlton is responsible for staffing the after school program with a team of talented enrichment teachers and providing Akili scholars with opportunities for increased exposure to the arts and athletics. She manages enrichment during the school day and is working to expand Akili’s use of personalized learning. She also coordinates special learning opportunities such as the Black History Month celebration and the Winter and Spring Showcases.

Carlton said she was drawn to working with youth because of a lifelong interest in helping others through education. “As a young person, I worked in a lot of kid camps,” she said. “I also tutored the same student beginning in her kindergarten year until she was in sixth grade. I saw the progress she made and how much of an impact I was able to have on her life, and that stuck with me. I spent a good deal of time throughout college working in New Orleans while writing my thesis and built strong relationships here. When I graduated, it was a natural next step to move to the city.”

“My favorite part of my job at Akili is that I get to work with so many of our students,” she said. “I get very excited about all of the new opportunities that we are able to bring to our kids.”

In reflecting upon the importance of providing scholars with additional learning opportunities, Carlton highlighted the ongoing relationship with the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. “Our partnership with the EMCM allows our scholars to receive small group music instruction at a very young age. They are taught by some of the top musicians in New Orleans. Without Elis Marsalis we would not be able to offer such a wide range of instrumental instruction. In the morning at Akili you see scholars carrying trumpets, clarinets, and even cellos. There aren’t many schools in New Orleans where you see that. From giving scholars a way to express themselves to teaching them a skill they can use their entire lifetime, this partnership is opening doors for our scholars.”