Tell us about your education.
My educational career began at Clark Atlanta University as an undergraduate student in 2005. As a Chicago native I was determined to attend a school far from my home and I’m grateful this path led me to an HBCU. As a psychology major, I was and continue to be fascinated with the study of the mind and human behavior. As the eldest of 10 siblings, I was intrigued that even though we all had a similar upbringing we were each still so different from each other. One of the key turning points of my undergraduate year was the summer semester I got to study abroad. During my summer in Barcelona, Spain my cohort and I traveled extensively throughout the country and met a number of teenagers and young adults who had already mastered 3-4 languages. This introduction to travel and life outside of America immediately changed my worldview and perspective on learning and education. After obtaining a BA in Psychology from Roosevelt University I went on to pursue and obtain a MA in Psychology from Pepperdine University. Currently, I’m in the dissertation phase of a doctoral degree in Global Leadership and Change at Pepperdine University. Housed in Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology department this PhD has allowed me to deeply explore the various methods of teaching and learning from a global perspective.
What inspired you to work in the field of education?
Throughout my collegiate career I had off and on aspirations to teach on the college level. Becoming an adjunct professor at Pepperdine and teaching Multicultural Counseling to graduate students solidified this aspiration, while simultaneously shifted my thinking to impact younger generations. As a lifelong learner I have always had a positive relationship with education and considered it a window to advance into the various goals I set for myself. As I began to advance in higher education, I noticed how much information was never touched upon during my K-12 years. Continuously shocked by the public education system in this country I began thinking of ways the information I obtained in higher education settings can be disseminated down through the K-12 space. This prompted the starting of my nonprofit organization to work with and educate teens on international and cultural education. As my work with teens in various after school and summer programs continued, I recognized that my skillset might be needed in more areas than afterschool programming in order to positively impact future generations of global thinkers and dreamers.
Tell us about the charter school.
Phoenix International School of the Arts (PISOTA) is a public charter school that will be located in Charles County, Maryland. We are the first approved charter school in the area and will open to 6th and 7th grade students in the Fall of 2022/23. As an Arts school we aim to we inspire and prepare the next generation of global artists, innovators, leaders, and scholars to use their intrinsic gifts and academic skillsets to make the world a better place. We envision a generation of informed and highly capable youth taking equal stake in the global economy and community no matter their background. We believe in youth rising above their circumstances and soaring to their greatest potential. Eventually serving grades 6th – 12th PISOTA will also be one of the first schools in the area to utilize Cambridge International Curriculum for our students. This curriculum will allow students to compare their success to youth around the globe instead of just their region and serves as an added assessment to our global by design layout. Our five key pillars include:
- Excellence in A3: Academics, Arts Instruction + Arts Integration
- Global Competence, Leadership and Bilingualism
- Mental Health and Holistic Wellness
- Real-World Experience and Access to Experts
- Community Uplift
What is your strategy in educating African Americans?
My strategy for educating African Americans is to move away from traditional education methods that have negatively impacted previous generations. As a country with a history of hiding its truth in educational spaces and neglecting the cultural strengths of its natives, I want to change our relationship with education through the lens of a global perspective. With restorative approaches and practices I aim to allow Black students to bring their full selves into the classroom and have the confidence to carry both their culture and individuality with pride in all spaces. With a background in Psychology, I aim to utilize the generational trauma built up over centuries in this country as a window to improve our mental health and open our eyes to the endless possibilities of success that exist within and outside of this country for people of color. Through these educational hurdles I hope these strategies will begin to trickle down to future generations and ultimately impact the multiple layers of struggles African Americans currently face in this country in and outside of the classroom.
How has Covid 19 impacted your life?
Like many, Covid-19 has impacted my life in a number of positive and negative ways. As the first global pandemic in our lifetime its abrupt arrival disrupted the world that I had become accustomed to. As the founder of The Now Boarding Corporation, a nonprofit organization I started in 2015, a key goal of mine has been to increase annual study abroad rates for minority males. Through Now Boarding I promote travel education, cultural education, and second language acquisition to communities who are rarely afforded such opportunities. My organization has sponsored passports for male youth across the country and like many organizations geared around travel, this came to a complete halt during the pandemic. While disappointed to be forced to halt travel engagement work, this time did give us the opportunity to reimage what global connections can grow into in this new virtual space. Another impact Covid-19 had on my life was the ability to focus on areas I am truly passionate about. As my co-founder and I continued to build the building blocks for starting a new charter school, the pandemic provided the clarity and additional free time we needed to focus on our goals to prepare an extensive charter application to submit to the Charles County Education board. This interesting time in the virtual education space also impacted our view of what education can and should look like in the future. Noticing the numerous hardships educators faced around the world when being forced to immediately shift to virtual learning opened our eyes to the traditional methods, we needed to reevaluate in our own proposed school structure.
What can people do to support you and your new school?
As a newly founded school we are looking for assistance in several different areas. Currently we are recruiting additional members for our Board of Trustees to help us build more local and global connections for our future students and staff. In addition, we have opened applications to all Charles County students who are eligible to apply for our inaugural year. Also, any interested educators are urged to submit resumes on our website for a chance to join our PISOTA Crew! Lastly, as we are also a nonprofit organization your donations are welcomed and tax deductible.
Where would you like to see your career in the next five years?
In the next five years I see my career advancing in education and research. I envision serving as the Head of School of PISOTA and running a successful globally focused international education department whose success can be seen through its students. These students who will be on the path to be bilingual before graduation will all have had some type of abroad experience and be positively connected to the community while keeping PISOTA’s core values at their center. I see my career also advancing in the higher education arena as I get back to teaching on a collegiate level, while also utilizing my research to influence foreign language learning policies around country.
Rickkay L.T. King is President and CEO of The Now Boarding Corporation, a non-profit organization he founded in 2015. This organization promotes studying abroad and second language acquisition among American minority male high school students. To date, the organization has introduced the world of travel to many young minds by sponsoring passports for students across the country.
Mr. King also serves as an adjunct professor in Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, where he teaches Multicultural Counseling. In this role he leads lectures surrounding social justice and discusses multicultural factors related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, spirituality, ableness,
and socioeconomic status. Based in Washington, D.C., Professor King is also the co-founder of a newly proposed charter school (Phoenix International School of the Arts) in Charles County, Maryland where he will serve as the institutions Associate Head of School.
Rickkay received his bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University in Psychology, 2011. He obtained a master’s degree in Psychology from Pepperdine University, 2015 and is currently in the dissertation phase of a doctorate in Global Leadership & Change at Pepperdine University. His dissertation research surrounds foreign language instruction in minority communities and how African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is viewed in these classrooms.
Rickkay L.T. King
Phoenix International School of the Arts: