Robin Christian has big dreams for her city. “Atlanta is in my heart. I want to see Atlanta become very successful,” she says. The 42-year-old principal of Barack and Michelle Obama (BaMO) Academy was born and raised in the city and is a graduate of Spelman College. She is personally invested in Atlanta’s future. And where does that start? For Christian, it’s with the kids. Having spent most of her more than 20-year career working in vulnerable communities, she’s seen firsthand the hardships many children experience. This motivates her to set ambitious goals. “I’ve worked with students where we’re their only hope, so I wake up every single day and I truly enjoy coming to work. My children give me joy,” she says.
BaMO Academy, previously known as D.H. Stanton Elementary, was one of the schools mired in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. When Christian came to the school, she knew that what her students needed in addition to strong leadership was hope, so she renamed the Peoplestown school after the Obamas. Since then, she’s helped increase attendance and test scores and made BaMO Academy the district’s fifth most-improved school last year. Her passion for change extends to the parents of her students, as well. After discovering that over 70 percent of the students’ parents were not high school graduates, Christian implemented an onsite GED program. She also created a center where parents can apply for jobs and even do laundry while on campus.
Christian acknowledges the challenges of her career, but at the end of the day—even when those days may be 14 or 16 hours long—it’s worth it. “The work is tiring, but when kids come back and tell me about the graduate program they got into, I realize the fruits of my labor,” she says.