Ateya Ball-Lacy wears many hats! She is Assistant Principal at G. James Gholson Middle School in PG County (go Mighty Knights!). She is an alumnus of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and has been a dancer and teacher with Kankouran West African Dance Company for over a decade. Ateya is also the founder of Hoodsmart: The Urban STEMulus Project focused on including the creative arts in STEM education for 7-12th graders in the DC area.
Ateya’s story is really about community in DC. At age 13 she joined Kankouran through Mayor Marion Barry’s summer youth employment program, and fell in love. Founded in 1983, Kankouran is the oldest African dance and drum ensemble in the country, and Ateya’s auntie was the first female drummer in the group. Clearly this is a family with deep respect for tradition but also an energy and passion for breaking down barriers. Ateya now brings that energy and passion to her work teaching the next generation at Kankouran.
So that’s two full-time jobs already, but Ateya doesn’t stop there. She is also the founder of Hoodsmart: The Urban STEMulus Project, a wide ranging initiative to turn STEM into STEAM by injecting arts in STEM education. Hoodsmart’s focus is on 7-12th graders in the DC area who are interested in solving society’s problems through creative thinking and collaborative work. A signature initiative of the program is the Smart Home Challenge in which middle and HS students redesign a small condo as an eco-friendly smart home. Sponsored by DMV Innovators, there is a $1000 prize and an actual condo that will be redesigned based on the winning entry.
Ateya brings a healthy outlook to everything she does for the community, whether mentoring kids, teaching African dance or creating positive opportunities to showcase the ingenuity of our youth. It’s all part of a larger project to encourage young folks to explore their creative problem-solving side, and to show the broader community a more positive image than the usual, negative media rut about our kids. Coming full circle, Ateya is now working with the Marion Barry youth leadership program to launch Hoodsmart TV, a home for all this good stuff. From promoting STEM and the arts, to teaching a healthy lifestyle, Ateya is a tireless force for bringing the next generation of DC’s leadership into alignment with their full potential.
[Click play at the top of this post to hear our interview with Ateya]