Alumna changing lives at Gadsden County High

Chelsea Matthews Franklin, principal at Gadsden County High School
Photo Courtesy-Chelsea Matthews Franklin

Chelsea Matthew Franklin is fulfilling her purpose by positively impacting Gadsden County High School with dedication, time, motivation and effort.

She is striving to change the culture and is fighting for better opportunities for the school’s students. 

A Jacksonville native, Franklin began her career in education after graduating from Florida A&M University with a degree in public relations.

Franklin dreamed of working for ESPN and traveling to big cities. After being recruited, she decided to serve as a teacher for only a short period. 

She recalls being asked, what do you want to be remembered by and what will people say at your funeral? These questions awakened her sense of purpose.

“I was recruited by Teach for America in Jacksonville and thought I would spin back into PR after those two years,” said Franklin. “My life was changed drastically, when I met my first group of sixth graders at Northwestern Middle School. It was the lowest performing middle school in Florida at the time.”

“There is a quote that says there are two most important days, the day you are born and the day you figure out why,” Franklin added. “I figured out my why the first day in the classroom. I had a sense of fulfillment when I transformed students who couldn’t read to high achievers.”

Chelsea Matthews Franklin and students at Gadsden County High School
Photo Courtesy-Chelsea Franklin Matthews

On a mission to continue to fulfill her purpose, Franklin attended Columbia University and earned a master’s in urban building leadership. 

She served as an assistant principal at Andrew Jackson High School, Matthew Gilbert Middle School, and Leadership Academies at Eugene Butler. At the age of 30, Franklin made history as the first Black principal at Fletcher Middle School.

With a vision and purpose, Franklin is trailblazing a successful path for the high school students of Gadsden County. 

“My leadership here is about encouraging students and teachers to work together to meet one common goal, increase graduation rates,” Franklin said. “Every student that will walk through our doors will be college ready, military ready, or career ready. I have students who have all three. My hope is to build a culture by all means necessary. We won’t be mediocre and we will continue to rise to excellence.”

Franklin feels that finding consistent characteristics of leadership has contributed to her success and purpose as a principal. She says that as a servant leader you have to have a great work ethic and build relationships. Building relationships and connecting with her students fulfills her sense of purpose. 

“There are students that are used to people leaving them, used to people giving up on them, used to people talking about them,” said Franklin. “I have students that are homeless, students who watched their parents get shot in front of them, students who are LGBTQ and people crucify them, and students who are struggling with depression. So, when I zoom out and think about what’s really important in my life, it is very clear to me, very intentional to ignore distractions and focus on my students.” 

Chelsea Matthews Franklin and student mentee Amaryelle Lawson
Photo Courtesy-Chelsea Matthews Franklin

Franklin encourages students, who want to go to college, to attend FAMU. Although she serves as an educational leader, she admitted using public relations skills acquired at FAMU every single day. 

Students at Gadsden County High School describe Franklin as an encouraging principal, mentor and second mother, who always shows love and care to students and teachers. 

“Mrs. Franklin is a person that is very humble and compassionate,” said Amarielle Lawson, a sophomore at the high school. “I love how she is rebuilding the school. Everything she says, she keeps her word. She actually loves us and is a perfect example of a strong, educated woman. When I graduate, I am definitely going to FAMU to study double majors and focus on being an attorney. I see how successful Mrs. Franklin is and I want to be like her.”

“She is a cool principal that is trying to get everybody where they need to be,” said Edward Johnson III, a junior. “You can tell she is about her business and care about our future at the same time.”

Recently, Chelsea Franklin, 33, married Gallop Franklin II, who she met at FAMU during undergrad. Her husband is a professor of pharmacy at FAMU. She is a Ph.D. student at FAMU.

This homecoming, as a tribute to “The Epic Return,” Franklin will accompany the class of 2006 to present a generous donation.