photo courtesy of Creighton Bryan
Meet Creighton Bryan. Entrepreneur. Innovator. Father of three. You’ll find him protecting and projecting the brand identity of Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy (TAG) in Southwest Atlanta, formed when two schools merged in 2016.
The head of Educational Instructional Technology, Creighton brings his entrepreneurial and corporate experience coupled with his masters degree in public health* to the challenges of a school that serves a 99% African American/100% low-income population that’s located in one of Atlanta’ High Injury Network road corridors, Cascade Avenue. And he’s using both pride in the power of the TAG community — and bikes — as instruments of change.
I had the great pleasure of talking with Creighton this week, after the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s (ABC’s) always-inspiring head of education, Stephen Spring, alerted me to the good things happening at TAG.
As Creighton explained to me:
“I have helped the school see itself not as a recipient in need of support but a powerful nonprofit in its own right that’s valuable as a partner with other entities aiming to create positive change in the community. I serve as the technology, marketing, branding, and community liaison to forge and grow those relationships, and we are proud to be integrating bike education into our curriculum in innovative ways.”
- Using a fleet of bicycles acquired from nonprofits such as FreeBikes4Kids and in partnership with ABC’s Shifting Gears program, TAG 1st graders receive hands-on bike education during PE classes. Creighton said: “Most of these children do not have bikes of their own, so having access to a bike to ride in these classes is very exciting for them”;
- TAG students in all grade levels (from K-5) receive bike education integrated in their Spanish classes;
- 3rd graders at TAG have the life-changing opportunity to learn how to be advocates to solve problems in their communities as part of their literacy classes. The designed learning experience focuses on being a change agent around bicycling to create safer streets. “ABC’s recent Respect Cascade community action showcased just how dangerous that road is for our students and families, and we know we have shared objectives in making things better. Every time a child at TAG gets on a bike, that need is clear,” Creighton told me;
- Families at TAG had the opportunity this past autumn to participate in a Bike Family program with ABC (funded by the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority) where every member of the family received a bike, helmet, lock, lights, and bike education. This was all somehow miraculously done virtually due to limitations regarding COVID-19;
- A new fleet of bikes just received from FreeBikes4Kids will be used when TAG begins in-person learning again in January to encourage more students to ride bikes to and from school. Priority dismissal of walkers and bike riders, bike racks, and a soon-to-be-added bike fixit station will help encourage this, as do improvements within the community to fix broken sidewalks and provide more safe routes.
Creighton has more ideas. The school is located just a half mile from the Atlanta Beltline, a valuable community asset that could be incorporated into the schools’ curriculum and outreach more. There are new restaurants and coffee shops that could serve as partners. Plus, TAG’s designation as a STEM school means there are opportunities for students to engineer innovative solutions to their specific challenges, such as how to design an affordable bike that all family members could use. And what about a bike library, where kids could “check out” bikes to borrow? Why not?! Creighton and the team at TAG are already on it.
Stephen Spring considers TAG to be a role model. Named after the first African American aviation battalion in World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy could encourage other schools to embed bike education, engineering, and encouragement into the very essence of their being.
As for Creighton? He’s about to get his first bike in years and plans to ride it around campus to model the desired behavior once the kids come back. And he’s excited about it.
* Creighton’s master’s thesis was on health disparities in African American communities