While Akin Akinniyi, better known as "Mr. A" at Villa de Paz Elementary School in Phoenix, AZ, describes his experiences growing up as "blessed," it is clear he understands and the hardships faced by students in his community.
"My mission, in partnership with school educators, families, and community members, is to support students by providing a comprehensive and developmental program including education, intervention and consultation," he explains. Mr. A perceives his own opportunities and resilience successes as ways to push his students to strive for more. He believes, "There comes a time for all of us where it seems easier to give up and/or just settle. To me, the concept of resiliency is to persevere through that time and come out a better person."
"Akin Akinniyi exemplifies foundational leadership and resilience by demonstrating choice in action. Through his leadership as school counselor, students are learning self-management and discovering that regardless of the situation, your response is always under your control. Our students and staff look forward to his positive professionalism and caring, and our school climate is all the better [for it]," says Melissa Sawyer, co-worker of our September Resilience in Action recipient.
As the elementary's school counselor for eight years, Mr. A acknowledges the unique challenges that hold his students back. He recognizes a community plagued by alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, and he spends much of his time working to educate his young students on the subject. In addition to his counseling role, Mr. A provides invaluable resources to students in need, allocating shoes and clothes, food boxes, and housing and utility assistance.
"Mr. Akinniyi...is dedicated to supporting and growing the whole child. He knows the struggles of many of our students and strives to be the person in their life that listens and believes in them. He co-created and implemented the check-in/check-out program on campus to help some of our students who have a hard time starting off and ending their day successfully...Mr. Akinniyi is a treasure at our school. We don't know what we would do without him!" says co-worker Kristy Bands.
It is clear Mr. A's mission is fully supported by his staff members. Our team here at WhyTry was so impressed by the quality and level of submissions we received on his behalf for our Resilience in Action award. We are grateful to know such an exemplary person is working to expand the reach of resilience in education.
Mr. A seems to be a humble and generous person who seeks to help students see the "treasures within them[selves]" each and every day.
"As a school counselor, we are presented with some of the toughest situations and circumstances. To know that a child has/has had to endure through such trauma or conflict or heartache can keep you up at night. I am inspired everyday by the resiliency that my students display. It is a credit to the character they all possess," he explains. "It is important for my students to know and understand the idea of resilience so that we can build hope in those trying times. There are constant challenges faced by our students in this community and helping them understand that there is a light at the end of the tunnel if they just keep going, makes a world of difference."
If you would like to nominate someone for WhyTry's Resilience in Action Award, please CLICK HERE.