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Call Me MISTER celebrates

The 2021 Summer Institute of Longwood’s Call Me MISTER program was held in late July with a combination of virtual and on-campus activities scheduled for the young men in the program. Virtual presentations centered around a theme of “A Call for Focus” ran July 26-28, culminating in an on-campus luncheon with over 50 attendees.

Call Me MISTER (CMM), established at Longwood in 2007, aims to prepare young men for impactful careers as elementary, middle or high school teachers, providing resources and support that move them toward successfully securing positions in classrooms where they will positively affect the lives of their students. A 2021 fundraising drive is establishing an endowed scholarship for participants in CMM from across the commonwealth.

Dr. Tamara L. Brown ‘89, the Executive Dean of the University of North Texas, offered the keynote for the luncheon. The Longwood alumnus highlighted her own need for resilience during various stages of her academic career, both as a minority student and as a faculty member at numerous institutions. Her central message encouraged the MISTERS to aspire to the highest levels of academic leadership, at both the K-12 and university levels, because the field is in need of their minds, their perspectives and their energy.

“I am continually impressed with the enthusiasm generated by the young men in this program,” Dr. Maurice Carter, the Director of the Call Me MISTER program at Longwood, said. “It was also encouraging to see such wonderful support for the mission of Call Me MISTER from across southside Virginia and even from Texas and New York City. These people recognize the critical importance of greater diversity of our teachers and other educational professionals.”

Also during the Summer Institute, the MISTERS, as the program participants are called, engaged in two zoom-based discussions of academic success led by Dr. Erica Brown-Meredith, assistant professor of social work, and Dr. Ronald Thornhill, principal of Brunswick County High School in Lawrenceville. Brown-Meredith, who also directs the university’s Collaborating with Lancers for Academic Success Program (CLASP), framed the types of academic support available at Longwood through CLASP and other offices. Many of the MISTERS represent first-generation college students, a demographic of particular focus for CLASP. Dr. Thornhill focused his presentation on preparing for success while also emphasizing the critical importance of males entering the teaching field, particularly among minority populations.

Cedric Hall, the principal of Eagle Academy for Young Men in Queens, New York, shared his own path to the classroom from his time growing up in inner city Philadelphia. Hall encouraged the MISTERS to commit to being the best instructional leaders they can be; acknowledging that while they may have an easier time with classroom management than some other young teachers due to their physical presence, their ultimate success in the classroom will center on their ability to inspire their students to want to learn.

“You represent very powerful models here,” Hall said, challenging the young men to continue to encourage each other and embrace their roles as scholars.

At the annual luncheon held in the Upchurch Student Center, representatives of the Call Me MISTER advisory board, regional superintendents, Longwood University faculty and administration, as well as past and current MISTERS and others gathered to welcome the new MISTERS entering Longwood this fall. Six young men have joined the program as freshmen this fall, coming from high schools across Virginia.

Jonathan Brooks, the current student-president of Call Me MISTER and an Elementary Education major from Mechanicsville, served as the master of ceremonies with other MISTERS also taking part in the program. In her opening remarks, Dr. Lissa Power-deFur, the dean of the College of Education & Human Services, thanked the MISTERS for choosing to be teachers as they will be making a difference with the next generation of students. As role models, these young men “will be providing advice, compassion, tough love, inspiration and hope.”

“This program is an inspiration,” the Reverend Dr. Rickey White of Keswick, a member of the CMM advisory board, said. “Seeing the MISTERS lead the event, punctuated by the awesome message by Dr. Tamara Brown, was truly inspiring.” White is also an officer in 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, and he has worked with CMM leadership to develop connections between his organization’s High School Scholars Program and Call Me MISTER at Longwood.

Cumberland County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Chip Jones was similarly energized. Cumberland is among the local divisions that has had students participate in Call Me MISTER and has hired graduates of the program as teachers.

“Dr. Brown delivered a message that was inspiring for all of us that attended,” Jones said. “I appreciate the opportunity for Cumberland County Public Schools to partner with Longwood, so our students can attend an institution of higher learning to earn their teaching certification. The ultimate goal is for our students to return to the community as teachers, role models and future leaders.”

The Longwood chapter of Call Me MISTER aims to recruit young men who seek to establish themselves as role models for K-12 students through their careers as classroom teachers while offering them targeted academic and financial support. There are currently nearly 20 young men involved in Call Me MISTER at Longwood, representing a range of teacher preparation grade levels and subject areas. Interested students and program supporters can contact Dr. Maurice Carter at cartermd@longwood. edu or call (434) 395- 2663 for additional information on the Call Me MISTER program and the scholarship drive.