In 1992, my older brother Rodney committed suicide. I will never forget hearing that and feeling a sense of disappointment...I was heartbroken...but I was more upset that he had accomplished what I should have long before…because I felt alone in this world.
Dismissed by my father, ignored and left to live (mostly) alone by my mother, I grew up as a neighborhood enigma. I was poorer than most of the kids on the block, yet rode buses far out to the county to attend school in one of the richest school districts in our state.
I was a black boy, in a mostly white school district. I was “too smart” to stay engaged in the traditional classroom, yet by the slimmest of margins I failed to qualify for gifted learning (unlike when I was in our neighborhood school district).
I was a loner in both settings. I was too Black to be accepted by my white schoolmates, but into too much “white shit” to be embraced by my inner-city neighbors (and even my family). I was surrounded by many people and yet understood by no one.
In 1996, I tried to commit suicide and our school counselor took an interest in me, and helped me to see the potential I had in helping others. I started working with an after-school organization named TREND (Turning Resources and Energy in New Directions). I used TREND as an outlet to advocate for positive social change for teens around the world. With TREND, I realized that I could command a room with my presence, if I had a knowledge base to support me.
Although academically my grades in high school dropped at one point to a 1.097 grade point average (before I transferred schools), I graduated on time and even earned a few academic scholarships.When it was time to pick a career field, I knew that education would be the one space that I could continue to utilize my natural talents and affect positive change.
I recommitted to my academics and have since earned six post-high school degrees, and I am currently working on my Doctorate. I have also learned outside of the classroom, and have been trained by groups like Teaching Tolerance and Educational Equity Consultants in the areas of Unpacking Racism and Social Justice.
I use this gained knowledge towards meeting my ultimate goal in education: to teach students that school is more than your grades, but finding one’s authentic self.
I want my classroom to be a space of emotional empathy so that each student can discover within themselves the most authentic version of who they want to be. I commit to this in the same spirit that Mrs. Cosair (the name of the counselor mentioned above) once instilled in me.
I am not perfect, yet the pursuit of student holistic success inspires me. Every day, I attempt to be a true advocate for each student so that no one ever feels alone like I once did.
Today, I have a phenomenal wife, three amazing kids, and thousands of students. I will never feel alone again.