What makes you a Difference Maker?
I make a difference by leveraging school and community resources to provide students from underserved communities with access to college, career and life resources. In my role as founding principal at Frederick Douglass International Academy, I work collaboratively with students, teachers, parents and community stakeholders to develop and implement programs to build urban students’ scholar identity. For example, my school has collaboratively, over the past two years, worked with the University of Michigan Bicentennial Office, University of Michigan’s College of Education, Health and Human Services, and the Office of Metropolitan Impact, University of Michigan-Detroit Center, Wayne State University, Bme Community, Broadside Lotus Press, Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Sigma Delta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in implementing a variety of college, career and life readiness programs for students at Frederick Douglass International Academy.
Partnering with universities, and other civic, literary and social organizations, has provided students with access to a variety of workshops, seminars, guest speakers, field trips, field students, college visits and participation in community-based activities. As a result, students are demonstrating higher degrees of self-efficacy, self-awareness, and self-control; academic self-confidence, future orientation, need for achievement and affiliation with individuals, groups and programs associated with academic success.
I’m Difference Maker because of my commitment to college, career and life readiness in urban schools and communities, and because of my ability to leverage human capital and community resources to benefit underserved students and communities.
Highlight your campus achievements:
To support my initiatives to bring college, career and life readiness programs and resources to urban students and underserved communities, I applied for a grant through the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial Office. The purpose of this grant is to implement innovative teaching practices that build urban students’ academic self-confidence and scholar identity. A major component of this teaching for change initiative is an exhibition developed by student researchers at Frederick Douglass International Academy in Oak Park, Michigan with grant support from the University of Michigan Bicentennial Office.
An exhibit of the life, legacy and career of Cornelius Langston Henderson, the second African American to graduate from the University of Michigan’s engineering department and one of the chief design engineers of the Ambassador Bridge, is featured at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Detroit Historical Museum. The purpose of the exhibition is to provide students an opportunity to engage in authentic research, delivering presentations and engaging with community stakeholders in ways to build their academic self-confidence.
Resources from the University of Michigan’s Office of Metropolitan Impact and the College of Education, Health, and Human Services—including investments and supports from Dr. Paul Fossum, Dr. Martha Adler, Dr. Julie Taylor, Dr. Bonnie Beyer, and Dr. Thomson—over a two-year period, aided in the development and delivery of this student-led exhibition and other school-based programs designed to provide students access to college resources.
In addition, Dr. Martha Adler, advisor to the Bicentennial Grant Project at Frederick Douglass International Academy, along with the College of Education, Health, and Human Services, is supporting my presentation on “Why College Readiness in Elementary Schools?” at the Black Male Development Symposium at Arcadia University.
Highlight your leadership experiences both on and off campus:
I currently serve as founding principal at Frederick Douglass International Academy, a PreK-8 public school academy in Oak Park, Michigan. As founding principal, I serve in variety of leadership roles, including director of curriculum and instruction, instructional coach, assessment coordinator and director of student support services. In these various roles, I coordinate services and leverage both human and material resources to provide students with access to college, career and life readiness programs and resources. In addition, I serve as both student and parent advocate in my role as co-chair in the departments of Student Life, Parent Outreach and Community Partners.
I also serve on the Bicentennial Student Advisory Committees at both the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses. In this role, I work with other committee members to provide voice to students and to recommend a general framework for bicentennial activities.
What is your dream career and/or long term life goal?
In the near future, I plan to serve as university professor and dean of a college of education with a metropolitan mission. My goal is to be an enlarging leader by helping future teachers and school leaders reach their potential in servicing urban students and students from underserved communities. Becoming an enlarger will also include writing books, publishing articles and conducting workshops and seminars on topics related to college readiness and urban students. In addition, my future will include working elbow-to-elbow with other thought-leaders, policy-makers and social activists to free up time and resources for enriching the learning experiences of urban students. In summary, my future plan is to leverage my position as an educational leader to provide urban students and students from underserved communities with greater access to college resources.
What was your most defining moment at UM-Dearborn?
I have experienced a number of “defining moments” during my years as a graduate student at UM-Dearborn. Without singling out specific professors, I must acknowledge that collectively the College of Education, Health, and Human Services transformed my thinking, and refined my career trajectory, while equipping me with the mindset, intellectual capital, skills and network to be a Difference Maker in my community. For example, Dr. Truman Hudson reached out to me after seeing a view of social media postings on my college readiness activities at my school. He immediately facilitated a conversation between Christopher Rutherford—president at Broadside Lotus Press and director of community outreach at the Center for Educational Outreach at the University of Michigan—and myself. My conversation with Christopher Rutherford, who now serves as program director with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), led to my securing a grant worth over $10,000 to provide my students with six weeks of college, career and life readiness workshops, seminars and field trips. This is but one example of how professors and faculty members in the College Education, Health, and Human Resources have used their position, influence and network to develop me academically and professionally, and to leverage resources supportive of my projects.