December 13, 2017

The power of role models: How male teachers of color can make a difference

The nonprofit Profound Gentlemen captures this 'day in the life' of one of its educators and his student at a Charlotte high school

Josue Romero, a senior at Olympic High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, right, and his teacher, Mr. Fred William-Harrell. Photo courtesy of Profound Gentlemen

Profound Gentlemen believes that our boys are our future, so we wanted to go behind the scenes and capture one student’s perspective on his teacher’s impact on his education and life journey.

We sat down with Josue Romero, a senior at Olympic High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Josue is an intern of Profound Gentlemen and a self proclaimed future business leader. To give you some context on the budding entrepreneur, every day Josue comes into the office dressed to impress. Whether in Jordans or dress shoes, he always looks like he came straight from a GQ photo shoot. It makes sense that Josue’s goals are to succeed in the fashion world, open his own boutique, and launch his own clothing line.

Although he’s now suffering from a mild case of “senioritis,” Josue said that with the continued motivation from his family and teachers, he will become the person he strives to be.

Male educators of color have a real opportunity to make an impact on boys and young men of color. A recent study from Johns Hopkins University found that when black teachers are present in the classroom, especially from grades 3-5, there is a decrease in black students’ likelihood of dropping out of school later on, and an increase in their likelihood to pursue higher education. The study also showed that black students have higher test scores when they have black teachers, and it found particularly positive impacts on black boys from low-income backgrounds.

We wanted to dig deeper to get a better perspective on the relationship between these educators and students like Josue. We asked Josue about his favorite teacher and Profound Gentlemen educator, Mr. Fred William-Harrell. “Mr. Harrell is the most influential educator because he looked out for me and helped me to be ahead of the curve when it comes to college and real-life readiness, he also really played a role in my life as a father figure when there really wasn’t one” Josue said.

We visited with Josue and Mr. William-Harrell at the World Class Book Club, a program for young men at Josue’s school. Josue has been a part of the club for one semester, reading and engaging in deep discussion on topics like self-esteem, personal passions, and life choices with his peers and other young men in the community. Through the book club he also meets community and business leaders that are brought in by Mr. William-Harrell.

During the session, the boys, about 20 of them, heard from a guest visitor, American Airlines Pilot Jeff Mabry. Mabry spoke with the Club about his career as an airline pilot and the importance of having diversity in the field—he even shared a few in-flight horror stories.

Afterward I overheard Josue talking with his friends, and I heard many saying, “I never thought about being a pilot, that’s something I’m going to look into.”

Profound Gentlemen strongly believes in the phrase: “They can’t be what they can’t see.” We believe that when students have increased access to professionals who reflect their background, their opportunities are endless.

Mr. William-Harrell serves as a bridge between the classroom and the business world by using relevant instructional practices to connect the dots for his students. It was evident that he created a strong foundation with each of the 20 young men in the book club. We asked Josue to described the foundation behind his relationship with Mr. Williams-Harrell. “When your relationship with the teacher is strong, you build trust with them and you’re more comfortable in their class. This helps make you want to go to that class and understand the material,” he said. “He’s someone who takes the time to get to know their students and caters to them while teaching them in the best way they learn.”

We look forward to continue following Josue’s journey and will hopefully be sporting his exclusive line of clothes one day.

Nandi Cheathem

Profound Gentlemen

Nandi Cheathem is the development coordinator for Profound Gentlemen. Her focus to strive for personal and ambition for greatness and growth has helped her reach numerous goals within nonprofit organizations. Nandi also serves as the the office manager for the National Optometric Association, working closely with the executive administrative director as well as the president. Nandi studies at Central Piedmont Community College, where she strengthens her skills in communication as well as writing. In her downtime, she enjoys writing novels, listening to music, and spending time with her family and friends.