On a sunny Saturday in October, 28 high school students came to the College of Education for the inaugural Brothers United in Leadership Development (BUILD) Academy, a new initiative designed to empower high school males of color to consider education as a career path and to prepare them for their roles as future leaders. Among the College of Education undergraduate student volunteers who led the event were seniors Michael James, Carlos McClaney and Briana Green. We asked the students to share more about the mission of BUILD and elaborate on their experience as mentors to the aspiring educators.
You recently participated in the inaugural BUILD Academy. Tell us more about this event.
Michael James (MJ): BUILD Academy was an event that brought a small number of participants from April’s BUILD Summit back to the College of Education. The participants were able to engage in hands-on activities that further prepared them for their roles as future leaders. For example, we led personal and leadership development activities that allowed participants to have more interaction with college student-leaders and team-building activities like a campus exploration scavenger hunt.
Carlos McClaney (CM): After receiving feedback from BUILD Summit participants, we created the Academy to give high school students another chance to work with college students. During the Academy, students learned about topics such as teamwork, collaboration, and career preparation.
Briana Green (BG): The event on October 1 focused on understanding one’s communication style and how that plays into group dynamics and team efforts. In groups of six, high school participants and college group leaders roamed campus to answer the riddles of a scavenger hunt. The students seemed to be enjoy the active learning of NC State’s campus but also learning the different resources that college campuses have to offer.
Why did you decide to be a part of this initiative?
MJ: I decided to be a part of BUILD Academy because I really supported the overall mission and message that the program conveys. I’ve always been passionate about connecting students of color to resources and education as well as helping future teachers grow into leaders. BUILD Academy allowed me to combine these passions.
CM: I decided to be a part of this initiative in order to work more with high school students. As a future teacher, I think that it is important to get as much experience working with students as possible. It also gave me a chance to give back to the community.
BG: I wanted to be part of this initiative to have face-to-face contact with students but also to foster important relationships to help students feel like they can and will be supported in post-secondary school.
Why is increasing teacher diversity so important?
MJ: Increasing the number of teachers of color provides real life examples of a future career path to minority students. So, increasing the number of current teachers of color supports the mission of increasing the number of future teachers of color. There are effective teachers of many races, but teachers of color have demonstrated success in increasing academic achievement for students of similar backgrounds. Increasing teacher diversity is important because it is imperative that teachers know how to effectively manage a diverse population of students with different needs.
CM: The demographics of schools are changing. Teacher diversity brings new perspectives to the field and has the potential to improve the profession. Teacher diversity also benefits students by giving them more exposure to different cultures and ideas, and it can also bring in more teachers who can relate to students of various backgrounds.
BG: Representation is extremely important. When students see teachers of color pursuing their career with passion and vigor, while understanding that teachers are human too, meaningful relationships can be made. Teacher diversity is also important because it creates spaces where professionals from all walks of life can collaborate, share and process together for more engaging lessons and a stronger school community.
Why do you think mentorship is such a crucial part of teacher preparation?
MJ: Mentors are there to challenge you as a future educator. As an educator, you need to be prepared to face new and unique situations every day. Effective mentors challenge their mentees and push them out of their comfort zone.
CM: Mentorship is important because the beginning years of teaching can be difficult to navigate alone. New situations come up everyday in teaching that beginning teachers may or may not have experience with. Having a mentor gives teachers a chance to gain skills to address these situations. Teachers can also practice being a mentor to gain tools that will help them in the future. As a teacher, one has to wear many different hats as we want to enrich a student’s life as much as possible.
BG: Mentorship provides aspiring teachers with the opportunity to develop teaching strategies, approaches, lessons on their own but with the input of a seasoned teacher. In my opinion, mentorship relationships provide guidance, support and a plethora of perspectives to consider during the preparation process.
How do you think your involvement in BUILD will influence you as a future educator?
MJ: My involvement in BUILD has shown me how to see true potential in at-risk students and how to push them to their fullest potential. I feel that I have grown myself since becoming involved with BUILD.
CM: I think that my involvement with BUILD will greatly impact my future as an educator. By participating, I have gained more knowledge about what students want to learn about. I have also become more aware of different issues student go through and how to address them.
BG: Being a part of BUILD was an awesome opportunity to be in a space with 40 young men that could easily be represented in my future classroom. I was able to be submerged in a group of charismatic individuals that reminded me there will be challenged in my classroom but each student wants to be listened to and understood. Participating in BUILD has influenced how and why I intend to present college and career readiness information to students because I learned many students would consider college if they knew it were accessible and had knowledge of campus resources.