When we talk in our personal and professional circles about someone having the strength, tenacity, and mindset to reach all their goals and crush them, we think of people like the phenomenal, Dr. Cynthia Smith.
Smith is the first Black woman to open the first free Private STEM school in Jacksonville’s Eastside. As a first-generation college graduate, Smith has always placed a high importance on education. Working for decades in the Florida school system has shown her a lot. She knew she wanted to make changes that would be lasting and have a positive impact on the futures of students in her area.
Her academy is near and dear to her heart and when asked about how her staff helps to equip their young learners, she says, “At Minds of the Future Academy, we prepare minds for a bright future. We believe all students need a foundation for learning, and they will LOVE education forever. Our school has a passionate commitment to academic excellence combined with the development of articulate, confident, responsible citizens of the world.”
In a recent interview with the award-winning entrepreneur, she discussed her views and ideas about bridging educational gaps and her riveting documentary about her journey.
How has social media helped you to leverage and expand your professional relationships regarding closing the educational gaps we often see in the United States?
Social media has allowed me to expand my network to reach people virtually. The sharing of what I do and the growth that is seen gives people the “wonder” to want to know more. Oftentimes, people are intrigued through my expansion of academic services for children as well as the community. I pride my vision or closing educational gaps often seen in public education such as lack of parental involvement, lack of educational resources for students and the need to provide students a non-traditional education.
You have received many honors and numerous awards over the years. In your opinion, why are you standing out from the crowd?
I stand out from the crowd not intentionally, however the approach I take about what I do makes me unique. I truly believe in education. I believe that every human and existent being has had the experience of being educating. I maximize every teaching and learning opportunity. In addition to being an educator I am also a consultant that aim to enrich aspiring educators. When you constantly encourage growth in other people in turn uplift you.
You were recently featured on the Morning Show in Jacksonville, FL. What was your time like on set and what did you discuss?
I had the pleasure to discuss my school’s upcoming black-tie gala. This is an annual fundraiser that I created to raise funds to support our programs, bring resources into our school and award more free private school scholarships for students.
You are prepping for a big gala in late February. Tell us more about that.
As a private school you must raise your own funds. I have led my school through research that has demonstrated several important factors that will prepare students for a foundation of learning. However, Incorporating STEM, media, various forms of dance, a marching band robotics, and much more requires additional funding. Over 75% of my families comes from single parent households and they can’t afford to pay for education nor enrichments. At MOTFA, we must make sure that we raise funds year to year to keep our programs thriving.
You were recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year, which is a major accomplishment and a coveted spot by many. What types of things make someone a great entrepreneur?
I believe a great entrepreneur should always take care of their employees. The employees are what makes the business. Entrepreneurship is not a one man or woman’s job. It takes the support of others to make any business successful. I also believe that an entrepreneur must be able to wear multiple hats and control their emotions. As a self-made entrepreneur there are many things I had to educate myself on to be able to do and many situations that require patience and understanding. Lastly, as an entrepreneur you must take time for yourself so that you do not burn out.
You recently completed a documentary. What does it focus on?
The documentary is about my life, how I grew up and the challenges that I faced but still came into the person I am today. It has been the most precious piece of my work because it gave me an opportunity to reflect and made me visualize even more what direction my life is going. My documentary has challenged me to work even harder to ensure I am providing the best education possible for students that enroll in my school, Minds of the Future Academy.
You have been known to inspire others, but who inspires you?
For me inspiration comes in dynamics of words I hear Strength- my mother because she has faced so many struggles and she is the epitome of how I see strength. Powerful and Educated- Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, when I get lonely or think it is me carrying the weight of the world, I often think them. One day, I would love to have a conversation with each of them to discuss and hear their thoughts of Education and Entrepreneurship. Positive-Toya Johnson, if you have a moment follow her social media, she is a very positive influencer. Social media can often be so negative and draining. For me when I get the opportunity to be on social media, I am quickly reminded through her page “Work, Life, Balance”
Why did you create Minds of the Future Academy?
I created Minds of the Future Academy because if someone had created one for me, I would not have had to experience all the challenges I faced educationally when I was growing up. Minds of the Future Academy is a free private STEM school that affords students to experience a non-traditional education while obtaining a skill set for Medi, Dance, Robotics, Web Design, Business Development, etc. We incorporate so many enrichments to ensure our students are well rounded and we are preparing them for a bright future.
For other people out there who are in pursuit of their dreams, what message can you give them about determination?
Some of the things I tell myself: Dreams only come true if you pursue them. Don’t be afraid to try. Nobody works harder for you than yourself. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
What else can we expect from you this year and where can people follow your journey?
This year people can expect my books to be published: The Educated Educator, Black Boys II Black Men, The Educated Entrepreneur, and Teaching vs. Telling. If you are interested in following my journey, check out my social media @DrSmithJax and @MindsAcademy
To learn more about Dr. Cynthia Smith, follow her on her socials:
Photo Credits: Dr. Smith