YMLA prepares students for college and education fields
- Aurelia Spaulding, WKU News
- Wednesday, June 20th, 2018
Javon Mitchell’s father is a teacher. Benjamin Meza’s life was impacted by a teacher. Brevon Whitney is still deciding between teaching and another field. These responses, plus 13 others, share why of the participants in the Young Male Leadership Academy are exploring career fields in education through monthly workshops during the academic year and this week’s summer program at WKU.
As a college preparation and recruitment initiative, the Young Male Leadership Academy works with young males from diverse backgrounds to develop leadership skills and explore the teaching profession. The program is coordinated by the College of Education & Behavioral Sciences in partnership with Warren County Public Schools and Bowling Green Independent Schools.
“My brothers had done it before, and they told me it was a good experience,” said Whitney, a recent graduate of Warren East High School, “I decided to do it to better myself.”
During the academic year, students take field trips, meet local professionals, and learn public speaking, interview skills, and topics related to college readiness. The two-day camp culminates the year of activities for YMLA and kicks off the group’s trip to the Educators Rising National Conference.
“The purpose of the camp is to get students more connected to Western Kentucky University, for them to know more about our programs in education, obviously professional development, career readiness, and exposure to our campus,” said Julia Rivas, WKU Minority Teacher Recruitment Program Coordinator. Rivas along with Michael Coleman, Warren County Public Schools Teacher Recruiter, manage the program with support from Bristow Elementary Principal Chris Stunson, who serves as the counselor for the summer program and mentor during the year.
“We are looking for men of color to go into the field of education, but we are also trying to build character and leadership skills in these young men,” Coleman said.
For the summer program, the students spent June 19 and 20 on WKU’s campus participating in sessions introducing them to different careers in education. They learned about financial planning, leadership skills, and communication skills from WKU faculty and staff in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, TRiO, and local school systems.
The students agree with how beneficial the program has been for them. Bowling Green High School student Benjamin Meza shared how the program has impacted him. “It is a great program – really filled with a bunch of inspiration,” Meza began, “Honestly, I don’t think I could have gotten this far without them. I would not have had these many connections without them.”
Meza along with Warren East High School student Javon Mitchell, will compete in the individual category for “Educators Rising Moment” at the Educators Rising National Conference in Orlando June 21-24, 2018. Chidi Afam and Tomi Mustapha, of South Warren High School, Jamale Barber and Tayshaun Bibb, of Warren Central High School, will compete in the Ethical Dilemma team category.
All students will travel to the conference, support their peers, and learn from the different conference sessions.
“(Without YMLA) I would have been sitting down on my couch at home instead of doing this and bettering my future. I would like to thank them a lot for that,” Meza said.
Meza, Mitchell, and several other YMLA participants plan to attend college and pursue a career in education.
“Hearing the percentages of teachers and African American teachers hit home. You really don’t see a lot of minorities in the classroom,” Whitney said.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s A Quarter Century of Changes in the Elementary and Secondary Teaching Force: From 1987 to 2012, of 3.8 million teachers, 17.3% of teachers were from minority groups and only 24% of teachers were male.
Stunson’s comments resonated with Whitney’s motivation to continue to consider a career in teaching.
“Growing up, as a young minority male, in education we didn’t see a lot of mentors or role models in the classroom and in administration roles. For myself, it was hard to see myself as an educator because I didn’t see anyone that looked like me,” Stunson said. “As I decided to go into the education field and decided to continue that in administration, I didn’t only want to be an administrator at my school, but I also want to serve as a mentor and role model and an attainable figure for students throughout the community.”
It is that mentorship component and building connections that stands out to the students.
“I stay in the program because of all the opportunities that they open up – all the doors that have been opened to me since I joined in eighth grade.” Meza said. “It’s not only to pursue the teaching, but whatever we want to do. “It has really inspired me to become more of a teacher because that is what I wanted to do originally. It pushes me to pursue that even more so it makes it easier for me whenever I go to college.”
Coleman added, “We are exposing them to college. They know they want to go to college, but what does it take to go to college? We talk to them about the college experience and what it takes to get there and stay in college.”
Upon returning to Bowling Green, the YMLA will be recognized at their End of Year Celebration on Friday, June 29. Dr. Wayne Lewis, Interim Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Education, will give the keynote address. This event is open to participants, families, and supports of the program. Media are welcome.
The participants in the program attend Bowling Green High School, Greenwood High School, South Warren High School, Warren Central High School, and Warren East High School. All the participants include: Chidi Afam (SWHS), Jamale Barber (WCHS), Tayshaun Bibb, (WCHS), Joseph Boyd (BGHS), Ra’Sean Carothers (WCHS), Memphas Hite (WEHS), Benjamin Meza (BGHS), Javon Mitchell (WeHS), Tomi Mustapha (SWHS), Kevin Murillo (BGHS), Aiyontre Pillow (WCHS), Emerson Pocasangre (BGHS), Tobian Ragland (WCHS), Bryaden Wardlow (WEHS), Dakota Ware (GHS), and Brevon Whitney (WEHS).
Students interested in participating in the Young Male Leadership Academy during the 2018-19 school year must complete an application that will be available in the fall.
Western Kentucky University’s School of Teacher Education offers undergraduate and graduate degrees for anyone interested in pursuing a career in education. In addition, the Office of Professional Educator Services provides resources and support for students and teachers. For more information visit, www.wku.edu/ste.