Global Lessons: As DPAC Scholars Grow Abroad, DPAC Executive Director Grows As Leader in Vegas

Even though Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus (DPAC) is only beginning its second school year, the school has an impressive list of co-curricular accomplishments under its belt. DPAC High School scholar Alisha Graves was selected as a finalist by the State Department to study abroad in China. Second grade teacher Tamyra Donelson began an outdoor garden where scholars grow produce to sell at a local farmer’s market. The DPAC HS boys basketball team received a special recognition from Clark County after winning the state championship by the largest margin of victory ever in Nevada, and these are only a few examples.

Adam Johnson is the Executive Director of Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus (DPAC). His goal is for DPAC to be an elite education provider in Las Vegas whose scholars can compete (in terms of academic prowess and experience) with students from the best schools in the country, including private boarding schools.

“The more we show that ‘normal’ at DPAC is traveling the world, hands-on experiences like a school garden, and creating family events where people feel welcome[d] on our campus, the more we can help our scholars, staff, and community realize that this [elite education] is what we are about,” said Adam. “When our scholars get to Stanford University, Brown University or Northwestern University, they have to be able to compete on an absolute scale with any student.”

Studying abroad is one example of an experience that is associated with schools that are considered traditionally ‘affluent.’ Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus High School (DPAC HS) participated in its inaugural international trip last year. Adam was blown away by the transformational change he saw in scholars after only a week of travel.

Current DPAC HS senior Arturo Martinez always thought he would only consider attending a college close to home. After going on the trip to Italy, Arturo’s outlook changed. Now, he wants to apply to schools like Johns Hopkins. Why? After his trip to Italy, he knows he will be okay being away from his mom and sister.

Moments like those, where Adam witnessed his scholars’ horizons expanding before his eyes, make him proud to be part of Democracy Prep.

Adam strives to grow as an Executive Director so that he can better serve the DPAC staff, scholars, and community. Fortunately, one of the avenues for him to pursue this growth is at DP YOU.

“I want to spend time learning how to be a better leader and listen more to my staff,” said Adam. “I’ll be digging into sessions that focus on leadership and community building within schools.”

Last year, Adam participated on a panel at DP YOU called, “I Am my Brother’s Keeper,” which explored the challenges that young men of color face in our education system.

“We all take part in shaping the experience of one of our most marginalized groups, whether you immediately identify as black and male or not,” said Adam.

Although one of Adam’s goals was to share a message with a room full of educators at DP YOU, he soon found out he was part of creating a network-wide dialogue.

“I thought it was really a powerful session,” said Adam. “Even in our network, where we are striving to make sure every child is getting to and through college, we recognize that even we need to have the right conversation about how to get certain subgroups to perform equally.”

This year, Adam is participating in a panel called, “Educating Young Boys of Color” that will continue the discussion started at last year’s conference. You can learn more about the panel and sign up for it here.

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