Meet Sherrie Philon, Ed.S
Founder of the Philmore Academy for Science & Arts
Sherrie Philon has served in the field of education for over 23 years, as an educator, educational leader, and mentor. After working in both public and charter schools, she realized that there were things missing from each and decided that it was time to create her own. Her passion for the educational and life success of students, more importantly, young women and girls, prompted her to found Philmore Academy for Science & Arts in 2017. It is the first minority-owned Science & Performing Arts private school of excellence in the state of Georgia. Philmore Academy education is anchored in an academic experience that is individualized, as well as both challenging and engaging. The school prides itself and the culture of the school around the principles of scholarship, leadership, service, and excellence. One of her favorite quotes is from Nelson Mandela which asserts, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” Once it is obtained it can’t be taken away. Ms. Philon believes that all students can achieve greatness if they are placed in a place where they can experience success. She believes that if you can dream it, you can achieve it.
Now if we can, I’d like to go way back for a little while. Where did you grow up? What was it like to grow up in Tampa, FL?
I was born and spent the first half of my life in Tampa, FL. After losing my father tragically at age 9 to a drunk driver, we relocated to Miami to be closer to my maternal grandparents. Growing up, I was surrounded by a lot of love from my parents and my 2 siblings. I came from humble beginnings that were rooted in love and family in a small town in Central Florida. Growing up in Jackson Heights in the ’80s was not the best place to live but our family was extremely close, especially after my dad passed. We ate dinner together every night, spent every Friday together for Family Night, and had big family gatherings every Sunday. In this environment, there were few children that spoke about college or ever wanted to leave. While I loved and cherished my family, I knew that there was more for me to see and do. The mantle on my life to be an educator and impact the world through it was strong even as a child. I was always the child who wanted to play school and teach everyone at home and on the playground. Upon relocating to Miami at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, I saw the disparity in the quality of education in the high school that I attended versus the one that I attended in Tampa. There was no desire for students at my high school to want to attend college or think about the next step in their future. It was then that I knew that I had to make a difference in the educational system through my education. Being the first college graduate in my family with multiple degrees has allowed me to be an inspiration to students that I have taught throughout the years that were faced with the same adversities as I had growing up and still be triumphant. My greatest joy as an educator has been to see students who have come out of hopeless situations and have gone on to college and be the first in their families as well. I am a firm believer and a testament that education is the key that opens the door to all things in life and can never be taken away.
What inspired your entrepreneurial journey or event?
The two things that inspired my entrepreneurial journey were my passion for equity in education as well as the desire to show students of color can be excellent in the areas of STEAM, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. From my childhood experiences in school, as well as in my teaching experiences, I found that there is a disparity in the education of schools of color. This, of course, dates back to years of the lack of educational equality. My goal in creating Philmore Academy was to ensure that African American students receive the same access to quality education as any other students in this country and are able to compete at any and all levels because of it. I set the bar high and our students constantly raise above it. We are capable of anything that we put our minds to but it is a matter of exposure. Secondly, the areas of STEM are currently dominated by other races. My Master’s degree is in Mathematics and I remember being the only black student and only female in a class of 25 engineering majors. This was unheard of at that time because typically girls shy away from the math and science fields because of a lack of role models. As a teacher, I inspired and showed so many girls of color that they could be anything that they wanted including, doctors and engineers. I was no different from them growing up and my goal is to continue to be an example to show them that if I can do it so can they.
Tell me about what problem your program solves?
Philmore Academy for Science & Arts provides equal access to high-quality educational experiences as well as exposure and preparation for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics for students of color.
What do you define as a failure?
Failure is not a word that I utilize in my vocabulary. I look at things that don’t work out as I planned it as an opportunity for growth and learning or a stepping stone.
What have you felt you have failed at? What might you have done to prevent those failures?
To be quite honest, I have never failed at anything. Instead of looking at something that didn’t work as a failure, or something negative, I look at every lesson in life as a stepping stone toward my goals.
What kind of impact do you want your service to leave on your students?
I want the legacy of Philmore Academy to be one that people recognize as an institution that provides African American students access to quality education through exposure and opportunities in STEM and the Arts.
What is your why? Why did you start your journey?
My why has always been about the future generations of students of color and the impact that schools have on them. I have seen the difference between students who are academically prepared and exposed and those who are not. I began my journey to create an institution where equal access and exposure is at the forefront. These students will go on to change the world in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics because they have been exposed to it. It is all about exposure. If they see it, they can definitely achieve it.
What hurdles did you personally face and how did you overcome them?
The major hurdle that I faced, in the beginning, was a lack of resources and support. There was no manual on how to start a school and the people who have schools are not willing to assist others starting out. I am no stranger to education, so I began to research and put together my school on my own. Within two years I had a plan and two students when I opened my doors on the first day. I have since grown to a 9,000 square foot building that is almost at capacity and some classes with a waiting list. My faith, patience, perseverance and passion is what has allowed me to overcome them. I have never given up on my plan. . It has not been an easy journey but definitely worth it when I see the growth in students who may not have had the same exposure had they been in a different setting.
Do you feel your service met the needs of the market at the time of conception? Does it still?
Most definitely. I am continuing to add programs and partnerships that will continue to expose the students to experiences in the major areas of STEM that are lacking minorities.
When did you realize entrepreneurship was right for you?
I realize it every day when I enter the school building and I am greeted with smiles and excitement of students entering a place of learning where they feel loved, safe, and are thriving academically.
Why did you choose entrepreneurship?
I honestly did not choose entrepreneurship, it choose me. I could have never imagined owning a school, but my heart and the gift that I have to educate and prepare the future generations was much greater. To whom much is given much is required and I have heeded the call.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs and small business owners who may not be achieving their goals?
Never give up no matter how hard it gets. It takes patience, persistence, perseverance, and endurance to reach your goals. Success does not happen overnight and those of us who experience must work at it.
What would you say is your most driving motivation to keep doing what you to do?
The children are always my motivation. Every decision that I make is all about them and preparing them to be global leaders of excellence.
What are you most excited or passionate about? (In both business and life or both)
I am passionate about the future of the state of education, more importantly, equal access to it. We know that education plays a huge role in the life success of a child and I want to be able to say that I contributed to that. Knowing that I am helping to change the quality of education for so many children for generations to come is what excites me. This work will help change the world for African American students, their families, the economy, and the world.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your business? What are the goals that you hold personally?
I would like to continue to grow in the student body, increase strategic partnerships, internship opportunities for students, and a larger campus. My personal goals are to continue to be an inspiration to not only students but other educators and entrepreneurs through the work of education in the future.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re committed to in your work and life? Tell me about them.
I am deeply influenced by my mother who was the person to first believe in me and was my first teacher. She has always given selflessly to her own children, and now foster children. Her passion for teaching and helping others has made me who I am today. I am inspired by the great, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and her accomplishments in opening a during a time when educational opportunities were few for African Americans. The school she founded set educational standards for today’s HBCUs. She also played a major role in educational policies as the advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is my prayer that my life and educational pursuits have that much impact on the world in this century.
What’s next for you in your business? What can readers look forward to from you?
I have created an educational consulting company, Schools In Session, that will launch in January 2022 which will assist other educators in developing schools of excellence. I will also assist public schools with providing educational strategies that will move their schools forward. Lastly, I have a book that will be released in January 2022 that will assist others in their journey to opening a school. I will provide masterclasses and one-on-one coaching and mentoring to help them succeed.
Learn more about Philmore Academy for Science & Arts and Sherrie Philon by visiting the links below.