When Pastor LuTimothy May first met Innisfree Founder and CEO Julian MacQueen and his wife, Kim, they could not have imagined they would join forces to give the gift of exceptional education to hundreds of kids in need.
Reverend May was in the process of saving a charter school to serve an underserved Pensacola community, when he asked Kim MacQueen to join its Board. Underprivileged children living in West Pensacola needed a place to grow and to shine. A.A. Dixon (now Dixon School of the Arts) would become that place, a neighborhood school that kids could walk to and from with their parents.
The community needed this place, but the school board determined not to renew its charter if the students could not pass the state’s standardized testing.
To prevent the school from closing, the MacQueens wanted to do more – so they asked Innisfree employees if they would like to get involved. The response was heartwarming, as the entire staff came together to ‘adopt’ the school, its teachers and student body.
Each hotel locally took on a classroom, mentoring and tutoring students to prepare them for the big test. Dixon posted the largest improvement in scores in the district, but did not meet the school board’s requirements, so its charter was not renewed.
But the little school that could would not be told it couldn’t. Dixon was re-established as a private school, where students benefit from an arts-based curriculum in which they now excel. The Dixon children have become part of the Innisfree family, enjoying pool parties and holiday festivities in our hotels. Dixon School of the Arts uses the arts to promote excellence in learning, serving and living in a global community. Rich Chism (Innisfree’s Director of Development) and Jill Thomas (Innisfree’s Chief Marketing Officer) currently serve as school board members.
Before, the school was only surviving. Today, it is thriving with ballet classes, a fully equipped music program, and visiting Artist In-Residence.
Dixon School of the Arts was the beginning of corporate citizenship for Innisfree, fostering educational opportunities for children and inspiring within our legion of employees the desire always to do more.