India Johnson

Dorjae' McClammey | May 21st, 2021
India Johnson

India Johnson

India Johnson is founder and executive director of Thrival Indy Academy. Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, India shares she was an army kid which enabled her to travel and live in different places around the world such as Germany. Eventually, she finally settled in Indiana with her parents.

In July of 2017, she received her administration license and was soon contacted by an organization in Oakland, CA. They offered her a fellowship which she then took and developed into an actual school model. “Being able to take that program and make it into the school that I believed the city, really the world needs, was very important to me,” she shares. Before she rebranded it Thrival Academy, it was known as Thrival World Academy, a school that made studying abroad easier for students who wouldn’t usually have the opportunity. She shares how she found inspiration during the development of the school. “My community influenced me into building the academy. Sadly, I lost multiple former students as well as classmates, some who died or were killed. I felt like the community needed something,” she says.

The Thrival Indy Academy offers many programs such as a study abroad program. All or their students get the chance to travel outside of the country at least one time as a part of the school curriculum. India receives help from all the fundraising she does, along with help from the community to fund these trips. Tenth graders even travel across the southern part of the country and learn the history behind the south, while 11th graders spend 10-12 weeks out of the country. They have even been to the Dominican Republic.

The academy also has a wellness program that includes things such as Wellness Wednesday that will shift into Thriving Thursday once they move back into more in person classes. This will include one on one meetings between students and their advisory teacher, Yoga, meditation, and the implementation of “Zen Corners” in every classroom for those who need to just recenter. They’ve partnered with Asante Children’s Theater to help students learn about the arts in a way that is more healing and powerful. India shares she had to build the academy up to really make an impact on these kids’ lives.

In regard to enrollment, their target is always 75 students per grade. After the 2018-2019 school year India remolded the program into a [slow grow 4-year school] meaning the first graduating class will be the class of 2024, with a class of about 45 ninth graders.

Thrival Indy Academy is mainly funded by the Indianapolis public school’s district. This district serves the highest percentage of black and brown children, and funds come from the state through the district, who then takes their cuts for transportation, facility, and food services, leaving what’s left to be used to pay Thrival’s teachers.

India is the first female black president of the Indiana Youth Group which is the oldest nationally existing group that serves lgbtqia youth. They are currently focused on the homeless black youth population. The same year she founded Thrival Academy, she also created her own children’s book titled, Marisol’s Hair. She also received many awards such as the Surge Fellowship, a fellowship for black and brown education leaders, and is featured on the BrightBeam and Indy’s 21 Women to Watch in 2021.

Out of all her accomplishments she is most proud of being able to cross lines. Being from a place where school reform is a huge ordeal, and still build and spread her academy and her ideas on education, is important for her.

When asked what her goals are, her answers are in alignment with her ambitions. She plans on winning a Nobel Peace Prize for changing the world. “For me, my love is magical, and my love is healing, and I incorporate my healing into everything that I do so that it may move people and systems,” she shares. Another one of her goals is to be the person who changes the education system.
Even though Covid 19 came and caused problems for many around the world, including loss of some funding and enrollment at Thrival Indy Academy, India shares she was still able to make things work. “The pandemic gave me a moment to settle down and learn more about myself, my abilities, and what I deserve outside of my ability to make things happen,” she shares.

In terms of the future for Thrival Indy Academy, India plans for it to become the most successful public high school in her city, with 100% staff retention. “Anyone that leaves my school will grow on to do something to pursue their dreams,” says India. She also plans to scale the school to be able to serve students from pre-k through 12th grade. In the next 10 years, her goal is to help Thrival Indy Academy become a network that spans across the country, serving students in all types of communities.

Understandably, India desire is to encourage anyone she encounters. She shares, “You deserve literally every single desire of your heart, if it wasn’t for you, it would not have been placed there. There is no need to question your ability to get it done because the desire was placed there for a reason. It’s yours.”

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