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GCAA Director Hashima Carothers: ‘Why Not Be the Best Possible You?’

August 10, 2023 | Jeffrey Good
GCAA Director Hashima Carothers: ‘Why Not Be the Best Possible You?’ Hero Image

When many young learners arrive at Gwinnett County Acceleration Academies (GCAA), they find a school leader who knows their challenges first-hand. 

GCAA Director Hashima Carothers grew up without a lot of money, but benefited from a community — family members, educators and coaches — who saw her potential and did their best to help her nurture it. Now Carothers is in a position where she can pay it forward. 

“I look a lot like our students — a woman of color, young, a walking role model,” she says. “They say, ‘Miss, you’re like us. How did you get this job?’ ”

“I tell them, ‘A lot of hard work.’ ”

Carothers is no stranger to applying herself. A strong student and standout basketball player, she studied and played ball at the University of San Francisco, went on to earn her master’s degree at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and then decided to build a career as an educator. 

After serving as assistant director of Clark County Acceleration Academies in Las Vegas, Carothers took a similar role at the Georgia academy and was promoted to director this year. She loves the challenge of helping young people overcome the obstacles that threaten to make them high school dropouts instead of high school graduates. 

Poverty, teen parenthood, academic difficulties, legal trouble and a lack of positive adult role models — all are challenges that test the determination of young men and women trying to lay the foundation for higher education, military service and well-paying jobs. 

All find a fresh start and great possibilities at GCAA. “I try not to let what brought them here define who they are,” says Carothers. “Why not be the best possible you?” 

For instance, one GCAA learner is not only an oldest child who helps her mother around the house but also a young mom who needs to hold down a job and wants to earn her diploma. At first, she seemed overwhelmed, but after finding that she could bring her baby to campus when needed and get ample personalized support, she’s begun to thrive. 

“I think she’ll go far,” says Carothers. “She didn’t have that support at home. She relies on us heavily.” 

Another graduation candidate struggles with health issues and addiction. He had begun to lose hope — until Carothers and her team helped him find his footing and feel successful at school and, by extension, in life. “It gives him a sense of peace and clarity.” 

Carothers is the first to tell you that she doesn’t work alone. Calling herself a “leader of collaboration,” she regularly turns to the teachers and mentors working with her for ways to even better serve their graduation candidates.

Recently, for instance, graduation candidate advocate Jamaal Hickman suggested a way to mobilize the GCAA team to reach out to learners who had fallen off pace — and the academy set a new record for the percentage of graduation candidates who were engaging in their coursework. 

“It’s great having people that understand the work, appreciate the work and are willing to do the work,” she says. “They do the work day in and day out and I couldn’t be more thankful.”