Piney Woods

Founded in 1909 by Laurence C. Jones, The Piney Woods School is a co-educational, independent historically African-American boarding school for grades 9 – 12. It is one of four remaining historically African-American boarding schools in the United States and is the largest (and second oldest) African-American boarding in the United States.

Community Noise Lab is working closely with PWS’s Mathematics and Science Departments, directly collaborating with Dr. Christina Nica and her students, to explore a variety of environmental justice and public health projects in the region. Piney Woods will also be dedicated water quality, air pollution, and noise monitoring site. Together, we will be collecting real-time data, analyzing their results, and will create reports, data sets, and community materials, and academic publications.

Throughout the year, students will also produce a series of short videos documenting their experiences. These videos will be available via our YouTube channel and on our website. Check back here for videos as they are released.

Meet The Piney Woods Team

Natnael Kebede

A senior from Addis Ababa Ethiopia at the Piney Woods School is passionate about the environment, an interest reflected in his projects since his freshman year. Natnael is active in the PWS  community and dedicated to service. Representative of the senior class for SGA and a talented soccer player, Natnael is a leader of the Piney Woods School.

Hawinet Adugna

A senior at the Piney Woods School, from Addis Ababa Ethiopia. Biology and healthcare are two of her greatest interests. Throughout four years, she participated in a variety of activities. Member of the Legacies of Grace organizations, National Honor Society, SGA secretary, Hawinet is a role model for younger students.

Mariyah Lacey

Mariya Lacey a sophomore at the Piney Woods Country Life School from Jackson, Mississippi. Mariah has been attending the Piney Woods School since she was 9 years old for summer camp, Mariya is a member organization that encourage Youth and Adult partnership in and out of school – Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability, Racial Justice Dialogue.


Ayanna Wells

A junior from Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti area of Michigan. She considered her experience at Piney Woods so far a true test in discipline and commitment to not only herself.  but her academics as well She is an SGA representative for the junior class and a member of Cultivating Pathways Sustainability/ Racial Justice Dialogue team.

Tayla Henson

Tayla Henson was born in Jackson Ms and raised in Walnut Grove Ms. She loves animals and the outdoor life. She also loves meeting new people and working with others to help with improvements to the ecosystem and to others’ lives in the future. She is currently attending The Piney Woods School and is in her junior year. She is class president and a growing and hopefully inspiring leader.

Naima Hawkins

Naima Hawkins is a student at Piney Woods where she studies as a junior. She is 16 and has always dreamed of being a star, and in a way she is. She’s the president of the “4H” Club and participates actively with the Cotton Blossom Singers, the choir of Piney Woods. She was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia where she was exposed to many different groups of people. Seeing as it’s her first year at the Piney Woods school she is elated to be participating in this project. Growing up she’d always had an interest in science, biology especially. Being able to be hands-on in a field she loves is so exciting.

Cristina Nica

Piney Woods science instructor Cristina Nica is passionate about chemistry and environmental science. Her classes reflect that passion with innovative project-based activities that inspire students in a living/learning environment that that reimagines the surrounding forests, nature trails, and lakes as spaces to experience and explore. It is literally a “classroom without walls” where students’ hands are doing much more than holding a pencil or taking notes. They are digging, testing, building, and revealing. She encourages collaboration and heterogeneous grouping to meet rigorous grade-level expectations based on peer support and feedback. Dr. Nica holds Ph.D. and master’s degrees in environmental science. She sponsors the Go Green Nados Club which she founded with the mission to reduce the ecological footprint of the Piney Woods campus. She sponsors and coaches the Math and Science Competition team and serves as facilitator for the Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability and Racial Justice Dialogue Teams (a program that connects educators and students in Vermont, Mississippi, and Nepal through a range of sustainability projects designed to empower them to discover their voices and experience agency in their own lives). She is also active in The Piney Woods School’s demonstration farm efforts to promote sustainable farming methods. Dr. Nica is proud to serve as sponsor/facilitator for the Brown University/Piney Woods School Research Team, fostering active student learning in a framework designed to track and enhance the environmental quality of the community.

Leslie Jacobs

Leslie Jacobs serves as Work Program Coordinator at The Piney Woods School. She has worked in Public Health for ten years with a focus on Infectious Disease. She has dedicated her work to educating the African American community in living healthy lives by making better choices, preserving our environment, and empowering our minds.