S.C. State program to increase Black male teachers receives $90k grant

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 10:52 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With Black men making up less than three percent of the state’s teacher workforce, a program at South Carolina State University which aims to increase that pool of educators statewide is getting a $90,000 grant.

S.C. State received the three-year Life2 federal grant, funded through the nonprofit Midlands Community Development Corporation, for its Call Me MiSTER program on Monday.


Dr. Roy Jones, Executive Director of the Call Me MiSTER program, said the program is not the answer to the problem of a lack of black men in the classroom, but “an answer.”

He pointed to the profound impact that just one educator can make in a community, and said with these funds, those impacts, will multiply.

“We believe still that the talent is there, and if you cultivate it and develop it, that it will rise up and be able to give back to our communities,” Jones said.

Dr. Rashad Anderson, who has led S.C. State’s Call Me MiSTER program for the past eight years, said he is excited about what the investment will mean for these young men, their futures and the school cultures that they will help to change in the future.

He said educators often tell him that MiSTERs have a “special spark” that separates them from other teachers.

“It’s because being a MiSTER isn’t a job,” Anderson said. “It’s never been about a job, it’s never just been about a paycheck, it’s not about summers off. Because in Call Me MiSTER, Call Me MiSTER is a calling. You have to be called into the classroom.”

Students like S.C. State freshman Fillip Thomas are answering that call.

Thomas said Anderson pushes the participating students in ways he never thought he could be pushed, and this is exactly where he wants to be.

His father’s career as an educator inspired him to pursue this path.

“Some of the kids here that I come across, or that I was in school with, they need help and I feel like I can be the one to be revolutionary and guide them to get them the help they need,” Thomas said.

Jordan Smith, a sophomore MiSTER at S.C. State, said being a part of this program has been a “blessing” and a way to give back to his community.

He said representation matters, and his perspective is needed.

“My leadership, my work ethic and just my presence in the classroom is just going to change the way that a student sees everything,” he said. “A troubled kid that’s probably acting up in class, they see me, I’m able to change that because of the things that I’ve been taught.”

Since the Call Me MiSTER program started, it has graduated nearly 400 fully qualified teachers, the majority of which are still in classrooms statewide.

This has led to a 90 percent increase of Black male elementary teachers in South Carolina.

Jones acknowledges that there is more work to do.

“We have to change the image of education and the image of males being educators and teachers and really being community champions, both for their schools and in the community,” he said. “I think the profile, I think there are stereotypical images of Black males and we’re trying to flip that script from simply being criminalized to actually being contributors back to communities in the most meaningful way that we can really believe there is, is to be a teacher, to be an educator.”

Anderson said playing a role in shaping the next generation of educators is a “unique privilege.”

“I don’t take the work lightly,” he said. “I believe that teachers are nation-builders, and we are training our MiSTERs to be exactly that. One student, one classroom, one classroom at a time, but we are a movement.”

Call Me MiSTER, which began as a partnership among South Carolina colleges, has expanded nationally in recent years. There are similar programs now operating at 15 institutions in 11 states.

The grant money will help with recruitment efforts for the program, opportunities for professional development for the MiSTERs at national conferences and an internship program for students in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

Dr. Thelma Sojourner, Life2′s Executive Director, said Morris College’s Call Me MiSTER program will also be receiving a $90,000 grant.

They have targeted Claflin University as another possible recipient in the future.

S.C. State’s Call Me MiSTER program is actively recruiting. If interested, send applications to rander29@scsu.edu by April 15, 2023.

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