B.E.S.T. Academy

BEST students in Mexico

“Staying with my host family, diving into cenotes, and experiencing the Chichen Itza pyramids were some of the best parts of the trip. Traveling abroad not only exposes me to different culture, but prepares me for the diverse community at college. I have also gained the interest to study abroad in college.”
-Kaleb, B.E.S.T Senior

  • BEST students in MexicoLocal kids
  • BEST students in MexicoBEST students
  • BEST students in MexicoMayan ruins
  • BEST students in MexicoBEST group shot

WHO: BEST Academy
WHEN: March 27th, 2016 – April 9th, 2016
WHERE: 14 day trip to Merida, Mexico

BEST, opened in August 2007, is an all male public school in Bankhead neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. BEST Academy operates with limited resources and has a high population of students qualified for reduced-priced meals. Many of these students have never been on a plane before, and some have never left the state of Georgia. Ultimately, BEST wants to cultivate the importance of social, educational and emotional well being of the student.


“These experiences abroad are life changing for the students who participate; and even for their classmates, friends and families who cheer them on and support them from home. There is definitely a domino effect of positivity that radiates through this community with each student that we are able to introduce to the world.”
–Erica Pereira, Spanish teacher at BEST Academy

Statistics about Bankhead

  • Bankhead is a community of 29,000. Located west of Atlanta, it is a poverty stricken neighborhood notorious for crime; it has the highest crime rate in Georgia.
  • In the community, 41% have less than high school education.
  • BEST Academy is rooted in the fundamental value of education regardless of students’ families and incomes.
  • There are many male teachers at BEST, who portray positive male figures as many students have emotional issues because they do not know their father. Grandparents are raising 51% of children in Bankhead. Teachers stay after school to work with students one-on-one.
  • BEST students in MexicoA cenote
  • BEST students in MexicoOn field trip
  • BEST students in MexicoChichen Itza
  • BEST students in MexicoRuins

Highlights from the trip

The students met their host families and the very next day were off to the volunteering site, Renacer de Mayab, a non profit organization providing assistance to youth and families of the Yucatan region. The students bought gifts for the kids and learned a folkloric dance. During their volunteer time, the kids had the opportunity to play soccer, bowling, and even attempt riddles in both Spanish and English with the kids of the organization. They also helped clean up the neighborhood as their volunteer activity.

The BEST boys and teachers went to see the game of Pok Ta Pok, which is an ancient Mayan game consisting of two teams and hoops. One of the highlights from the trip include visiting Dzibilchaltun, a Mayan ruin complex, where the students learned about the rituals, daily lives and religion of the ancient civilization. There they went to see cenotes, also known as sinkholes. The last trip ended with a visit to Chichen Itza, another Mayan ruin where El Castillo (an ancient pyramid structure) is located!

Before the trip, Erica Pereira stressed the importance of travel to her students. “I am interested in taking students overseas because it is life-changing.  Many of our students have never left the state, been on a plane, or left the country.  They are the first in their families to own passports.  The students who are able to travel with me begin to see themselves as global citizens and begin to see how they can overcome the often cruel environment that they are raised in.” Her passion influenced her students. After the trip, her students were able to understand why it’s so important to travel and learn beyond the classroom.

  • BEST students in MexicoLocal kids
  • BEST students in MexicoGroup shot
  • BEST students in MexicoSelfie time!
  • BEST students in MexicoBirthday fun

“You may already know this but you made it possible for me to attend this trip, and this means so much to me because having this opportunity to travel outside of the country and outside of my community; an opportunity a lot of peers don’t get to have is amazing and it really help open my eyes and see that is more outside of Atlanta. Also seeing the people there and volunteering at the community center really opened my eyes to want to help people even more. This is something I would never forget. This trip gave me the experience of riding in an air plane for the first time, seeing pyramids like Chichen ltza, swim in cenotes, meeting new people, and learn a lot more about the Mexican or Latino people and their culture and language.”
-Nokio, B.E.S.T student