Exclusive Interview with Autumn-Joi T. Wilson
Today we’d like to introduce you to Autumn-Joi T. Wilson.
It’s an honor to speak with you today. Why don’t you give us some details about you and your story. How did you get to where you are today?
It’s an honor to speak to you as well, thank you. I am the oldest Trinbagonian-American in my family and education was always important to us. As a child, I loved so-called “nerdy” things like reading a lot of books for fun and doing homework; however, if I ever had anything I didn’t understand, my uncles and aunts pitched in to help my mother support my academic growth. Today, the concept of a village within a family or community can be a struggle for some. When I became a teacher, I taught many students that were academically and behaviorally labeled as below average. It was my joy to empower them, their parents, and the educators around me with their growth. I do want to say that it was the goodness of God that helped me secure those outcomes and His directions that led me to begin the work of launching an education-based nonprofit for elementary school students.
I’m sure your success has not come easily. What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
Overcoming mindset challenges has been huge to keep moving forward. You have to learn how to think as an entrepreneur, and organizational leader, not just an educator. I learned how to be a team player as an educator, but doing the bulk of the work alone was overwhelming at times. I thank God for quality help and the truest of professionals and volunteers to do the work. No one sat me down and told me that building a nonprofit would be so hard. I was enrolled full-time in two universities concurrently when I contracted with a nonprofit attorney, so you can imagine that my personal funds were minimal. I was working a part-time job at an enrichment program for students and private tutoring. I had a lot on my plate, but with God’s word fueling my desire, I knew that each little step would eventually bring good success. I also contended with the strong shift in education from balanced literacy to structured literacy. I had to really scrutinize and weigh the many different curriculum options and decide on a learning format that would be beneficial for students, but not be a mirror of their school day. I’ve been a part of after-school programs before, so this was not the easiest task. A lot of research has to be done about funding, employment, and staffing, developing a successful board, and securing school partnerships. I am still planting, but looking forward to the growth that lifts you from off the ground.
Let’s talk about the work you do. What do you specialize in and why should someone work with you over the competition?
The Village Thinker, Inc. specializes in providing English Language Arts, Reading, and Writing interventions/tutoring for students in an after-school program with the intention of providing for the student holistically. There are other local after-school programs that are just focused on enrichment activities, others on enrichment and homework help, and others solely on a range of academics. We provide literacy support for 2nd-5th grade and also offer a variety of support to parents, and the school’s teachers as well. We partner with other organizations to provide a holistic look at student support, working together as a village.
What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?
Trust God and let him reveal your true passion, and do that. So many times we do things that are trendy or without purpose. My opinion is that your success will find success by doing what you truly love and enjoy. Ask yourself these questions: Where do you want to make a difference? What sets your heart afire? What is missing from that industry that disturbs your soul? Were you made and called to be a part of that industry? Go! That’s where you will find success.
Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?
In one way, success means achieving what you’re designed to do in small and great chunks. Success could look like I’m on the right path on step one, getting knocked about, but I keep getting up and moving forward until I reach step two, and so on and so forth. Continuing in the good word that you received pertaining to your calling/vision, walking in relationship with people in a healthy way is also another way of looking at success personally.
What’s next for you?
Continuing in the work of education, not just as the founder and executive director of The Village Thinker, Inc., but as an educational leader and instructional coach at the school level. I am also a budding author that’s working on publishing my nonfiction, poetry, and children’s literature. I am very much into walking out all of my God-given talents, so look out for me, there’s lots more to come.
Finally, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more?
I can be reached at www.TheVillageThinker.org. I’m also on these social media platforms:
Facebook and Instagram are @thevillagethinker_edu
Twitter is @thevillagethink
You can keep tabs on my writing at www.autumnjoitwilson.com
Facebook and Instagram are @awilsonbooks