Chris Myers Asch, Shawn Raymond, and Gregg Costa

Recorded March 4, 2021 Archived March 4, 2021 41:53 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby020470


Friends Chris Myers Asch (48), Shawn Raymond (49), and Gregg Costa (48) reflect on their time together doing Teach for America in Sunflower, Mississippi and how they came to co-found the Sunflower County Freedom Project and the Freedom Project Network.

Subject Log / Time Code

CMA shares his first memories of Sunflower, Mississippi and tells the story of how he ended up there for Teach for America.
GC describes his first impressions of Sunflower and his role in Teach for America.
SR talks about his first impressions of his role and the school where he taught in Sunflower.
CMA tells the story of finding a place to live with GC and SR in Sunflower.
CMA talks about some of the backlash they received from white members of the community in Sunflower as a result of their work.
GC shares some of his experiences teaching elementary school in Sunflower.
CMA, GC, and SR discuss how, after they had all finished their two years of Teach for America, they came to start the Sunflower County Freedom Project. They also discuss the members of the community who were influential in creating the Project.
GC talks about some of the challenges of founding the Sunflower County Freedom Project.
CMA talks about some of the ideas they tried to put into practice and some of the programs they tried to implement through the Freedom Project. He also tells the story of finding a building to house the Freedom Project.


  • Chris Myers Asch
  • Shawn Raymond
  • Gregg Costa

Recording Location

Virtual Recording

Partnership Type



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00:04 My name is Chris Myers. Asch. I am 48 years olds today's Thursday, March 4th, 2021. I am calling in from Hallowell, Maine and I'm speaking with Gregg Costa and Shawn Raymond. We are former roommates from our days teaching Elementary and high school in the Sunflower, Mississippi in the 1990s.

00:33 My name is Gregg Costa. I'm 48 years old today is March 4th 2021. I'm doing this interview from Houston, Texas and I'm here with Shawn Raymond and Chris Myers. Asch who are former. I'm Teach for America doll legs. And then we started the freedom project before going to talk about and I guess our relationship goes back about 26 years ago when we first met I'm Shawn Raymond. I'm the eldest 49 today's date is Thursday, March 4th, 2021. I'm in Houston, Texas and the pleasure of talking with my good friends Chris Myers. Asch and Gregg Costa. We were roommates didn't Teach for America Corps members in the Mississippi Delta in the early 1990s and the co-founders of the freedom project.

01:25 Chris take us back in the past. What do you recall about your first visit to Sunflower County.

01:34 Wow, so I guess the three of us all join Teach for America after graduating college. So this was the summer of 1994. We all went down to do what to the Delta to spend one day in Helena, Arkansas getting to know each other before we we spent six weeks in Houston in Teach for America Institute events. But yeah, I remember in your Teach for America. We got play we got our assignments and originally I was placed on my own and little town called Hamburg Arkansas and then got switched around a few times Greenwood, Mississippi and them when we finally got back to Mississippi got to the Delta we found out there that the three of us alone with another remember Linda Yang were going to interview in Sunflower County, which is a place that we hadn't even hadn't even been on the radar at that point. And so

02:34 Helen Arkansas drove down a couple hours to get to the sunflower for our interview and I think I think all of us were supposed to go to to ruble which is where they at an elementary middle and high school in Revolt and we went into the interview room with the the high school principal there in the elementary principal and I remember Greg and I had had taught Elementary School at the America and so we were interested possibly doing Elementary School principal had many openings. And as I recall this this meeting before of us crammed into this little teeny office with the the high school principal in the elementary principal on their they're kind of doing these introductions in about 3 minutes in the door burst open and in walked Jesse Gardner who is 6-foot one or something and I

03:34 Has the presence of a drill sergeant and she walks and she says hi and I'm guessing Gardner. I am the principal down in sunflower at the elementary school and do any of you have Elementary School experience and Gregg and I look at each other and we say why we taught Elementary School at the at the summer Institute and she said good you come with me and she took the two of us brought us outside threw us into her pickup truck and drove us 15 miles south to Sunflower to the elementary school. I had no idea what was going on back in the in the interview room, but she proceeded to to tourists around this little town of sunflower which would be my home for the next 10 years and showing us around when she called Gunsmoke weekends. It's Gunsmoke. I remember her using that serves weekends is Gunsmoke.

04:34 And she drove us around that the town which is I come to find out he had had a white folks part on one side of the railroad tracks a black folks part on the other side of the railroad tracks and drove us then to her off at office at the Sunflower Elementary School, but but I'd love to hear how you all remember that that fateful day.

05:00 I remember the meeting the same way. I think it's the only time Sean didn't speak up and I think he's regretted it ever since I don't tell you he ended up with the tougher assignment at the high school, which he'll talk about this tomorrow to teach elementary school. I'd even taught a semester of Elementary School help teach is an assistant. I'm in college a parochial school. And so I got an assignment originally in Greenwood, Mississippi use a little disappointed because it was going to be a high school but then went to the meeting and it is now last minute all of this was like a day or two before we got, you know, we went down there where you're going to be in school for our now it seems like our assignment was changing by the day and all I knew about Sunflower County was there was a wonderful friend of ours named Dave Smith who it was already caught one year. He was one year above us and teach them there. He met us in Arkansas when you first got to the Delta and he kept talking about this place. He was teaching called rule book.

06:00 I thought he was saying rural return to Mesa, right? Cuz it's out in the countryside of those Ruleville instead of Ruleville. Are you Ellie? And I remember we drove into the town. There was a sign for a place. That was Dad's or someone's Bobby q b o b e c u e we went to the school was like Christmas. I'm starting to grab West quickest down to Sunflower. We saw the town for the first time. Some flowers has a population. I think then the sign said 751 people the three of us are about to move out the way we could go increase the population that day after we got the tour of sunflower. We needed a haircut. I had a haircut all summer drink instituting you want to teach in Mississippi you want to be clean-cut we couldn't find a men's barber shop. We went down about eight miles south of sunflower is the county seat of Indi.

07:00 And so we drive down there can't find a men's barber shop. So we find a woman's hair salon with won't gets easier to cut a guy's hair. So we figured we can do this job we go in there and if you might imagine a small southern town the woman's hair salon disorder that the social Center or you know the town at least among the white folks who were who were at the Bliss Salon and they said we should all go well with this program Teach for America and Teach for America really had not been in the area long at all. So that no one right there really knew about it interesting footnote. I believe Senator Eastlands granddaughter was getting her hair done in that day there. I'm in Chris went on the way to write a book about them to the most famous folk some Sunflower County Senator Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer the Civil Rights activists. What are you doing here? And then finally there was a woman sitting in the back getting a perm and she's is all I have her I've heard about that teach for

08:00 America that's that program that sends them Yankees down here to teach us dumb Southern folk, and I said Well, ma'am. I'm I'm actually from Texas and she said well, that's Yankee to me with my house my welcome to the Sunflower County.

08:18 The closest thing ever to being involved in the NFL draft because

08:24 The interview was on air condition. We sat in the stainless steel chairs this very impeccably dressed man just barges into do all these niceties and then miss Garner comes in like you said like a whirlwind and her first words were let's stop the chitchat and get down to business and what you said was who wants to teach elementary school in Chris raise his hand and she grabbed him and then she looked at Greg and I remember Greg you looked at her and said they do you want to let her know her name or anything and she doesn't like that. I know it we're going and then the next thing I know you guys are gone. I'm not sure if I'm ever going to see you guys again in this is before cell phones and email and we're literally in the middle of like know where the Delta and I remember mr. Edwards this text Lee Dressed Man looked and he doesn't know my name is awkward silence and I'm like Shawn Raymond. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I got I got options for you. I've got our choir teacher died and we have a special ed opening and

09:24 I tried to cut a joke saying I got a terrible singing voice and he said he smiled extended his hand and said that a special edit it is and that's kind of how I all that occurred. And then eventually you guys came back to the high school in Ruleville. And then we went down for the haircut. But Chris with all that I mean is we think about the freedom project? You got it talk about living in are in the house and sunflowers and our first encounter with the former mayor wedge. Eventually tells us the freedom Project Lead Center thing about any of this at nowadays Teach for America doll set up new you get all these wet welcome package that you're you're all good to go at your school before you even step foot anywhere close to it. We didn't know anything about sunflowers. So we drive down to the town of sunflower trying to figure out a place to live where sort of driving around and and you know, there's the white folks apartment and the black folks, but we didn't really

10:24 Quite understand just how how written that railroad track didn't exist anymore. It wasn't even there but psychologically it remain just as firm as ever before and so we're driving around and we encounter this woman in her yard and we need a wee wee roll up to to this woman. We later find out is Billy Duff park or former mayor and you explain who we are and she says we were waiting for you and she invites Us in 440 and and what not at her at her house and we're just talking about all these different things and she's telling us about various housing options some of what she finds out because she has a police scanner that she listened to it. So you can catch all these different conversations and through this she finds out there and there's actually this woman who's having trouble paying your rent need some borders. And so we wind up getting the house in sunflower almost within sight of our school.

11:24 Dragonite saw Dad and and Sean I had to drive up 14 miles to the high school from our Elementary School Williamsburg. And I would walk to school but in terms of sunflower culture we came to do you understand pretty soon after after starting the school year. Elementary School. I talked to her since 6th grade and somebody young kids. My my boys, especially with the first time they've ever had a male teacher so they were really excited to kind of hang out and get to know me play sports. And so everybody's course knew where we live. And so one day a couple weeks in the school year. They come by my house hoping to play baseball and I'd love baseball in the baseball gloves with them and we we come out and then, you know, I'm just like kind of played ball with them and then

12:24 Industry in the yard right in front of our house and these guys pull up and in the pickup trucks to pick up tracks guys one had an older fella and I start yelling at it. I don't but they do and so they run off back towards the black folks part and they start yelling at me about either these kids. Don't belong here. We can't have them here. You don't understand the rules and so forth and the the older man looks at me and I'm talking about all these things like these are good kids either my students all the stuff. He says look,

13:20 I send my kids to India. I said that my kids to Indianola Academy to get away from those sonsabitches. You stared me right in the eye later. Come to find out that that's the former mayors and he used to be the deputy sheriff back in the 1960s and that he has a long history of enforcing the the racial lines in in Sunflower County. But no emails though cell phone very little communication with our parents or with other Teach for America people who are who are elsewhere. It was really kind of a jarring introduction to this this new life that we were we were leading that on the one hand was really exciting with her first job out of college writes. A lot of responsibility. A lot of work is very tiring, but the kids, you know, the kids that I was working with the Greg Teter like be at the elementary school. We were totally jazzed up about about our job and then didn't have this.

14:20 Racial reality can slap Us in the in the face and that led to all kinds of retaliation. Maybe you guys can can talk about some of that fires and some of the aftermath of all that what cars are parked out back of our house. So right there were some bottles behind our tires and things like that and in retaliation for us being there for us and for us teaching at the quote black school and thrust interacting with those children.

14:57 Alright Gavin quick right over the details better. I don't you want to petition going around on the white folks Park to get us kicked out or at least pushed out of our house to put some pressure on our on our landlord to get us out. I don't I don't know who it was petitioning who they were position to or or anyting formalized Burger whatever but it was it was very clear that the people are you our neighbors and people in the white folks parts were not happy with us being there and the job that we were doing. I'm just bummed that eBay wasn't around there cuz it's been great to get ahold to get a free copy of that petition to run a side of town. Greg talked a little bit about the name of your Elementary School kind of what it was like for you and Gregg for you and Chris to be teaching and then you know, cuz this is part of that story of how we end up with the freedom project.

15:56 Play Chris said he thought of fifth and sixth grade class. I dropped third and fourth. They basically had enough students for 1 and 1/2 classes. So that made her an extra challenging were new. We don't know what we're doing for new teachers to grade level all at once and they actually put a shin of the it was East sunflower does the name of the school in this town is 7 and 51 people don't usually eat sunflower. Of course is because back in the day there were in that small town, segregate. You have two different schools to support the small community one white one black which didn't end until about fifteen years after the board of education in 1970 is when they finally shut down the all-white School in Sun by which light is supposed to win at you then then these segregation academies Blossom. I'm almost in some cases over the weekend and then stole books and materials from the public.

16:56 Schools and use them in these whites only private school. I'm going back to our experience Chris and I wasn't nothing fancy. It's pretty bleak person is new teachers. We weren't even in the main our first year that was behind the main school. It was out of the pool house with a wooden roof and it has four rooms in it. Let me some of these rooms were piled up cobwebs. I mean that I don't think it had been used for a while until we ever having a clear out those rooms to get started with school and do it. It's kind of nice and that we were off you were off on this island a little bit as soon as I walk out and go to go to the cafeteria so much promise. I'm out of the youngest and then then Chris and then we saw what y'all was doing with it by High School Wichita.

17:56 What is special ed third and fourth grade? You can use Saudi students with so much promise and so much curiosity and excitement and just like just like 3rd and 4th graders. Anyway. We'll have all this to this excitement and talent that needs to be tapped or even then it was the work the word. You can definitely tell kids who because of of the stair situation. We're on the right path. Some kids might be already starting off on that that passed them that wasn't going to leave it to such good things. But you it was still a point where I wasn't sending stuff. I do remember, you know, it would just pooped really it when was very different mentioned. We're the only two male teachers at the school and there was only one other white sheet. I think the first year there was a kindergarten teacher was like we were basically about the only white teachers at the school in the remember, maybe a month or two after I pee

18:56 Teaching my students Kimberly pembleton one day brought me. It was a piece of wool and cry on all over it. And she said oh, well, I thought you needed a paddle because you know, you're not whooping up because corporal punishment is very common and I think still is, in the Delta into it. It was on there mr. Pasta and then on the other side and said this is called the biscuit and it hurt hard and something she just thought the only thing she could continue but was that the teacher wasn't paddling the students because the paddle wasn't there nothing nothing beyond that until I that is an example of what a different culture it was from what I was used to.

19:45 Ashley asked me to whoop their children and I call you and you won't get less is less than out. Unless it's okay, you know go ahead and you can do it and you know, I think for both of us at the element Elementary School that was just not a dynamic that I wanted to recreate, you know, the white man in power beating up a a black child is very much encouraged and pretty much all the other teachers did it as like minutes after getting the job that there is not a teacher was last year so I can contact them. Well, mr. Raymond, that's an interesting question words. Like where's my classroom going to be? That's Miss Raymond's a very interesting question turns out that I had like the abandoned shop room that there was a drake dividing my room that had like

20:45 Stop equipment literally in it, like saws and stuff with the alternative school that they moved into the other half of the sheet. And there were no books, you know forget about whatever the legal requirement was for. The number of Max kids that were in Special Ed. But your point about that corporal punishment wasn't just be Elementary School on the first day. I will never forget the Drake dividing my room for the alternative school opens up. The teacher comes in. She says are you the teacher said? Yeah, she lined up for boys that high school kids like probably 16 to 18 years old line them up against the wall tournament said you need to observe this and she took out something that was far superior to the biscuit that Greg. And she took out a paddle and just what these kids against that wall and then looked at me and said sorry for the interruption and took her back kids back across the back to her side of the room and shut the drape and I just remember thinking where are they like what?

21:45 Jobs in two and it was that mentality that began at the elementary school and we saw evidence itself at the high school where like juicer this idea of learning like the love of of just doing the kinds of things that would allow kids to have imagination and creativity interest in drive. I'm in really from moment one to realize that we had gone to released at the high school a situation that was unlike anything that I could never even imagined. You know, I think that we ended up all three of us would have saw the limitations and frankly tried to turn it to look at the possibilities of what could exist for for our kids and you know, Chris you may want to just launched us into thinking about what we were doing kind of Hazard two years War ending teaching and what the next step was going to be.

22:38 Yeah, it's so easy for Americans to your commitment on at the end of two years Sean and Gregg wound up going to law school together then ended stay roommates together at their University of Texas law school. I stayed and taught another year before I left and went to Korea to teach with a Fulbright program. And so all three of us were gone at that point 1997 or so, but what was interesting is that when we were gone, we actually had a little bit of space to start thinking a little bit more expensively. It's it's John was saying about what we could you what difference we could make I think all of us recognize the limitations of the classroom working within a school system that it in in some ways resembled Penitentiary. I mean, I know when my father came to visit you looked at our school with big fence around and he walked in the kids are walking him in straight lines down the hallway and he's in submitting you and looks like a prison in and working with the next

23:38 Serious limitations and when we were away, I'm in Korean writing Center at the University of Texas and this newfangled technology ideas for what we we could do only what would really change the trajectory of a of a kid's life a kid and Sunflower County and we we all of us are County you Shana Donna a special Freedom Day program at the high school talking about the civil rights movement in the Sunflower County and we knew on the one hand that sounds like anyone was an epicenter of the Mississippi movement.

24:38 Our Generation later and her grandkids United kids of sunflower County plaque is going up some are just as isolated and and lack of opportunities the same way kids the generation before did and they didn't tell many of them didn't even know the role the Sunflower County played in The Civil Rights struggle. And so we knew that the freedom schools that played a big role in 64 65 during the Civil Rights Movement and giving them the kind of education that they deserve the kind of opportunities to travel or to study different subjects that are really interesting to them to do drama and all these other things that appeal to the. Read. This is the kind of things that are needed most American Kids take for granted that are Elementary School. They didn't have music.

25:38 If you wanted to take the kids out like you had to get special permission to take the kids out to to run around and play and so we wanted to to create the education system that would that would really excite them and get them get them excited about learning and also get them on on track to succeed academically and and taking interested in their communities like the freedom schools have done a generation earlier. And so we batted around some ideas and in summer of 1998 when we went when I was done with my team back to the Delta the three of us and start a Holy Communion meeting with with members of the community andrewville and sunflower to get a sense of what they thought of this idea. Maybe you guys can talk about your memories of those of those first meetings that summer

26:34 What all back up a little bit so I could say we're doing this by email Sean and I were in Austin we end up on the same law school were roommates for 3 more years in our third year in law school starting the second year end of the second year. We were editor-in-chief of managing after the two top walls. I'm alone and that's a job when you're spending 15 hours today 6 days a week in this one small office. We shared an office. We are just parking at the right next to each other. It was really getting their communicating from the same office to Chris Halfway Around the World in Korea when all this started and I do think the idea cuz I remember that the first thing I had an easy path and we it was weird new teacher with a lot to figure out it was a challenging year.

27:34 Contractor that with with Sean was sitting at the high school and then you start to wonder I go. Where is it the system in the students were really getting off the damn. I give them some opportunity and we sort of pinpointed at the middle school stage in OKC right after they were leaving the East sunflower and then that's what led us to Target to Target that that that stayed and you think Esther stopped at one of the ideas from the beginning was not just

28:03 Giving them you no more reading instruction in math. It was opening their eyes to the world and everything is out there to see what's out there. I remember when I was reading a book my students don't usually try to think all this might be able to head in her but the word was escalate and didn't cross my mind and then I saw all the puzzle books and hear about at least half. My students have never seen escalator. They didn't know what that was and we were with 30 months in the Mississippi River half of my students are so had never seen the Mississippi River was in this idea that like a person moved American kids get a sense of what the world offers and what what opportunities you can you can hopefully for Speed one day.

28:47 Yeah, I mean I look back on it. And I remember in 98 when we did that first Roadshow visiting those churches stinking how long ago the Civil Rights Movement was and Chris will be reminded this last year that more time is transpired since we were there to today then from when we arrived and when the Civil Rights Movement happen and you know, I just remember being struck when we did the Freedom Day which we created this Living Museum at the high school where kids were doing a project about the civil rights movement. And how many of the kids just had no appreciation for the contributions their own community members had made and I really remember that being a core principle that if we could take what it happened in 64 right with the creation of these Freedom schools and converted to something at least in 1998 that we felt was a little more contemporary to see whether there would be interest for the community.

29:47 I seem to recall Chris that we started and Gregg that we started in Ruleville and then made our way South so that our last Community beating was in sunflower and I think that sunflower are all we was the anchor it's like where we live and candidly Chris you've got to tell about you know, the Downey family because they play such an integral role in The Next Step of of what we of what ended up being the freedom project.

30:12 Yeah, yeah that the Downey family and African American Family Mildred Downey Park Chinese her family and run Chinese grocery sunflower for for many years. They own land in Farmland, which was relatively unusual but goes all the way back to the to the turn of the 20th century. They hold on to that land and live on that land was the the younger son of the family Les Les Downing and less is a character unlike anyone I have ever met or ever. Hope to meet his remarkable remarkable human being I am unfortunately passed away a few years ago from cancer, but he he he he had this

30:56 Crazy sense of humor as you was really and he went to Yale actually, but wanted to come back in the seventies and take over the family land and teach himself how to farm and and that's what he was doing. He was he had a part-time job at this that the little teeny one room library that was in town and he and he was a sustainable Farmer on the side, and the house is full of wine. You tried all of the different kinds of winemaking, and he was just at his mother Mildred Downey is just one of the kindest and sweetest and yes firmest people you'll ever get to meet and the two of them really play the foundational role in that first meeting in sunflower. I can still remember last talkin kind of holding holding Court there as we were batting around this idea to to resurrect the Freedom School.

31:56 And he said, you know and I can't do it his his voice just is that so I won't even try but you said it's like on the farm and then you got to see it and it and it grows and education is the seed of freedom and that's been our motto ever since you're in really encapsulate a lot of what we believe r i t u u give kids an opportunity to learn and they're going to Blossom on their own and then they're going to have freedom to make their own choices in life. And that's kind of what what we were about your this idea of the Freedom School dad that it Harkens back on the Run has in the past forever. You want to be rooted in that past and give kids and understanding and appreciation of that past but it's really future-oriented right that that that passed Roots Roots us but it allows the kids the floor so they have the freedom to choose the kind of life that they want to leave cuz that screen door for me. I felt like many of our students felt Railroad and really really

32:56 We're in a lot of Simpsons railroaded because they come out of a place like Ruleville Central High School. And even if they graduate that they're not ready. They're they're not able to take advantage of any kind of opportunities to leave the kind of life that they might want to leave and we want we want to create that's oil on their own and they said they could enjoy the kind of life that they Envision for them for themselves and some lessons lessons little comment really got kind of got us started and also that it was that same meeting we decided not to call at the Freedom School which we found one of us too much connected to to the Civil Rights struggle, but to call the freedom project because his appearance in that meeting said look freedom freedom is an ongoing struggle when you have a project that means you're constantly working on it and so we came

33:56 That ready to start when we called both the Sunflower County Freedom project which would be this ongoing effort it to provide education and you either way that we thought I'd let that the kids with would flirt with Fleur de and maybe just recount kind of the thought process in the evolution of where we started in and where we all were to actually try and implement this at the time in so that's a challenge in itself and the work it took some time during first thing. I think the original goat was we start something as a summer program It ultimately try to make it into a a real school and maybe that's also probably why the that freedom school name was was throwing around originally.

34:53 Any other problems with that Mississippi to the net charter schools at the time he also is it resource issue? And so we thought we going to look really start with a summer program make it into an intervention with all we got into an after-school program. So it was around the year. They were getting these opportunities. I'm I remember so fast forward the next year summer of 99 is the first time there was the freedom project got off the ground. I got married that summer and then was moving to DC. I drove on the way we stopped at it must have been the first week or two of the freedom project. Chris was there and we stopped in Moorhead, right? It was in that it was just this field and in Moorhead, Mississippi Chris was there Steve asked. What do you remember about that that first summer knowing now what what the freedom project has the resources in the buildings with the thought that's what it was.

35:53 I'm doing great stuff. What do you remember about that very beginning and some of the kids from that for summer. Let that Sean. It's are the Greg and I had Todd because they they knew us and they trusted us enough to to send their kids to this this unknown program and we had some reading and we had had math. We also did website design we had a drama play grandparents about about their lives growing up or their role in The Civil Rights struggle in and it was very, you know, it was very much organic how to build up the strength of the staff that we had the best people in the world history of North Carolina Drama.

36:53 For their own families and I was really excited. I remember those early years when it was just a summer program for 3 years and came back and said well that was great. Let's do it again. But we want the same kids to join up the kids from the first summer. We want to be able to come back for summer number two. So we said, okay. Well, we'll create a second-year programming and add a whole new crop of first years. And then the 30th. They said do you want to come back for you three and so do our board of directors was filled with local parents who kept sharing their ideas about what they wanted to see if they wanted to see a health class right with these are these are teenagers and they they they wanted to have a help. So we added a healthy as one of the classes the second year. So it was he was constantly evolving and we we we were small enough and Nimble enough to create the curriculum that we thought the kids where they were.

37:53 Find an address some of these people larger ideas that we wanted to instill in them and talk about the lead Center and end the connection back to that that first, you know within the first 2 weeks and it happened in getting the money to do it and and that stores. Yeah, you know, so after the by the third summer we realized that if we really want to have a long-term impact we had to we had to do a year-round program that we still had this dream that maybe we'll do a school but the people that really made it clear that wasn't what they wanted. You don't know Greg always had reservations about starting at another school and there's already a white system private system and black public system. Do we really want to have a third in this small community in and they said no, let's let's do something year-round after school on the weekends and the kids are not in school.

38:53 And so we started to plan for that. I ended up moving. I left graduate school to move down full-time year-round and we built what we call the lead Center for our acronym love education action discipline would still is there is the other pillars the values of the freedom what we call the freedom project way the way the way we approached education way. We approach life love education action discipline, but we needed the building and Beyond downtown sunflower strip of empty buildings. That was as long as we have ever been there and their own by that Barry guy who accosted us that the first the first month and said, you know, he'll know I'm not going to send my kids at school right same guy with the deputy sheriff from Sunflower County. Well by that time he even he hasn't been able to sell those buildings. Nobody wants to move into to the Sunflower, Mississippi.

39:53 And so we we bought them from him, but at sad basically by their great prices and basically said look, we're going to write off that that that

40:03 Gap between market value and what we're buying it for and we'll call that a donation to the freedom project. And so this guy Johnson and Parker for many years was the largest donor to the Sunflower County Freedom project because we basically got our our building almost 4 for free we renovated it with with support from the heart and Foundation all these folks. We we turn it into into the center that still there we expanded it a couple years later and send it to me or now we have this network was different Affiliates, but but the lead Center is really the the heart of the freedom project and you can go in there and you can meet the kids. I'll give you a tour and you can see them at work and you can you can get a sense of the energy and the and the the excitement of learning that that I think that is what animates the freedom project.

40:54 Irony, right that's about this man who just so absorbed record. Everything that we were about to trying to do was desperate and ended up having to sell his property that is just now educating you do blackheads around the clock and there's some rich irony.

41:13 They meant

41:17 Gregg any final thoughts

41:21 No spin that you now have two other locations in Mississippi. It's educated so many students and it's only going to grow up in here. So if it all goes back to that first day or two of us and you got left at the high school.

41:34 Well any created a great lifetime friendship for the three of us and I don't think our life trajectories would have been the same had we not had that experience and had we not experienced it together.