There’s so much to learn in college; information on topics that go deep and learning to become a subject matter expert and honing specific skills for a desired craft. What I didn’t plan, to learn as a first generation college student from Detroit setting foot on campus at Howard University, was the fact that many of my peers who grew up in the States were coming from schools where they didn’t see themselves. They didn’t grow up with Black teachers. How could this be? Some of my peers came from Baltimore, St. Louis, and Atlanta. I was shocked. For some of my peers, attending Howard was their first encounter with a teacher who looked like them. For others, it was only their second or third experience. My mind was blown. Each time I tried to wrap my mind around this idea, I had more questions to ask: Who did you look up to? How did you relate to your teachers? Did you feel understood? Did you ever see yourself becoming a teacher? The list of questions that came to my mind were exhaustive. Intuitively, I knew this to be true: representation matters. I was fortunate enough to know this and privileged to have matriculated from Kindergarten to college with more Black teachers than I can count on both hands, many of whom I remain in contact.
Johns Hopkins University published a study that shows low-income Black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college. How many Black students, like many of my peers who never had a Black teacher, were not fortunate enough to attend Howard University, or any other university for that matter? What would it take to change that? These were questions I thought about for years before I eventually stepped into the classroom and experienced first-hand the benefits of Black teachers, especially demonstrated with my Black male students. Again, my mind was blown.
Then I discovered something new, something that was seemingly too good to be true, and something that had never been done before. I found a program that was recruiting Black male graduates from HBCU’s, training them to become teachers and providing housing for them in the remaining Black neighborhoods of San Francisco, California. Urban Ed Academy is an education non profit that knows representation matters and is dedicated to addressing the problem. I am beyond blessed to work alongside amazing individuals who are dedicated to this work. Together we will change the narrative of representation for our children and youth in education.