I can still remember the day I received the email from Pete Musso that included the ASC Newsletter. I scanned the page, glancing at each face carefully, eventually reaching mine. There was one of these faces that was not like the others and of course it was mine. Race is something that has always been very prevalent in my life and I did not expect anything different when I joined ASC.
I had spent my entire life in predominantly white institutions from the grade schools I attended in the suburbs of Saint Louis to the university I chose: Saint Louis University. Being around people different from myself has always presented me with the opportunity to expand my horizon, but at the same time it has presented me with challenges of not being able to relate to people. It was not until I began working at Loyola Academy of Saint Louis that I was finally in the majority. The student populace that is served here is predominantly lower class, African American males – people I can relate to. This is what makes my work so meaningful to me. These students are growing in a world and in a time much different from the one in which I grew up in. In an age of technology, social media, and uprising social movements, they are much more exposed to the happenings of world. It is refreshing to know that they have access to this knowledge and these experiences at such a young age, but also it is scary because our students are not always aware about how certain issues affect them. It is my place and responsibility to give them my personal insight on what it is like to be an African American in America today. I am not only teaching the curriculum, but also mannerisms and habits that our kids must adopt if they are want to be successful. Their personal growth is so important to me, as I see a little bit of myself in each one of them and know that they can do whatever they set their minds to.
This unique experience is not all sunshine and rainbows though, as there have been instances in which the color of my skin has affected the way people look at me. There are been times when I have introduced myself as an Alum Service Corp member and the response was one of surprise and astonishment. There have been times when I have told people I teach Physical Education and coach basketball in which they respond, “Of course you do.” I have been told that I look like a man who works at Loyola Academy. These, in addition to more subtle comments, are things that I have heard in my short tenure as an ASC. By no means do I believe that these comments were meant to be hurtful, but I do believe that they were said by people who come from a place of uncertainty. This situations are opportunities for me to open their eyes a bit and broaden their horizons.
I knew that this year would present many challenges and lots of room for growth, not only as an educator, but a person. As my teaching journey continues, I am constantly aware of how the world views me and what I do. I hope I can continue to open eyes and expose other people to the world I live in. I hope to continue to inspire my students to do what they love and be proud of who they are. This year is not only about doing the work of God within the classroom, but also about continuing to challenge people, their beliefs, and their opinions as we strive towards a better future for ourselves and the students we are so blessed to serve.