One of the more unique collegiate programs around the state can boast a new accomplishment this academic year.
Georgia College Call Me M.i.S.T.E.R. (Mentors instructing Students Toward Effective Role models) was established in 2014 to help alleviate a pipeline problem pertaining to the lack of African-American male educators.
The statistic is currently less than 2 percent.
But one thing has been missing from the program, housed in GC’s John H. Lounsbury College of Education, and that’s students from the Milledgeville and Baldwin County area. That particular statistic has changed this year though, as GC Call Me M.i.S.T.E.R. welcomes in its first locals in Sylvester Clark Jr. and Ty’Christian Henry.
“I’m really excited about getting M.i.S.T.E.R.S. from the local area because I think the whole idea is that they will be able to come back to Milledgeville and the surrounding counties to teach,” said Emmanuel Little, Call Me M.i.S.T.E.R. program director. “I think it’s important to grow your own. That’s what Call Me M.i.S.T.E.R. is about and that’s what the Rising M.i.S.T.E.R. Academy is about that’s attached to it.”
Both Clark and Henry are graduates of Baldwin High School, though Clark came from the Georgia College Early College program, a collaboration between GC and the Baldwin County and Putnam County district, housed in the John H. Lounsbury College of Education. Although the two young men have dreams of becoming professional educators someday, their paths to Call Me M.i.S.T.E.R. are quite different.
College is supposed to prepare students for the fields they will work in for the rest of their lives, and it didn’t take long for Clark, who entered as a nursing major, to decide nursing was not his chosen path. When deciding what other avenues to take, he remembered a conversation he had in high school with Georgia College Early College Director Dr. Runee Sallad who told him he ought to pursue a career in education. That discussion obviously planted a seed because Clark decided he wanted to get into middle grades education, but he’s currently taking a slightly different approach.
“Instead of learning about teaching I wanted to learn more about what I would be teaching, so I decided to change my major to history,” Clark said. “After I finish my history degree I'll come back and do another year to receive my master’s in teaching, that way I'll be certified in grades 6-12.”
Henry, the other local M.i.S.T.E.R., knew early on that he wanted to work in education after college. He said Little reached out to him while he was in high school to extend an invite to the summer Rising M.i.S.T.E.R. Academy that immerses young minority males in the teaching profession.
“It was a great experience for me. Since then, Mr. Little has been great a great helper, advisor, and pretty much anything I've needed him to be,” said Henry.
Among the benefits for students in the Call Me M.i.S.T.E.R. program are financial assistance to help pay for college, valuable in-classroom teaching experience beginning students’ freshman years, mentorship from local leaders in education, as well as test prep for the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) exam.
While all of that is appreciated, Clark noted one other important benefit from the program.
“I have quite a few friends, but with my brothers in Call Me M.i.S.T.E.R. I can actually get together with them and have intellectual conversations,” he said. “We can sit and talk about a book, current events, or anything from what’s going on in school to what I'm learning about in school.”
Something Little has noticed in his time working in education is the high number of black males educators who are also tabbed as coaches at their respective schools whether they have the experience in athletics or not. Clark said he is often questioned about whether or not he will go into coaching and doesn’t know yet if he will, but he has already made up his mind about one thing.
“I don’t want to be known as Coach Clark; I want to be known as Mr. Clark. I want to be the good teacher and not the good coach,” he said, before adding that student-athletes need positive role models in the classroom.
Henry’s path as it pertains to coaching is a little more determined as he is already gaining experience as a member of the varsity football coaching staff at John Milledge Academy.
“My goal is to be a head coach and have my own program,” Henry said. “I’m learning a lot right now from Coach J.T. Wall over at John Milledge now when it comes to organization and how everything’s structured.”
Call Me M.i.S.T.E.R. Director Little said he believes it is important to keep raising local teaching talent since some may be interested in staying locally.
“With Georgia College having such a great college of education I think the more students we can get from the local area the better off our K-12 system will be for it.”