EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – It looked like National Signing Day – family, friends, cameras, the college cap, and a scholarship for a young star with a bright future.
“It’s a journey I hope to go with for a long time,” said 17-year-old Edwardsville High School senior Jonah Durbin.
The next stop on Durbin’s journey is the University of Illinois-Chicago. He’s already impressed the dean!
“That’s the type of leadership that we want to nurture,” said Alfred Tatum, Dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Tatum thinks Jonah will contribute to his team as a freshman.
“His impact will go beyond the classroom. We’re nurturing the next generation of educational leaders who happen to be elementary school teachers first,” Tatum said.
Oh, you thought this was about sports? No. You see, Jonah’s court is the classroom, and the scholarship received is about more than a free college education.
“How many African-American teachers did you have going through elementary and middle school?” asked a reporter.
“Zero. I had zero,” Jonah said.
And he’s not alone. According to the Minority Teacher Recruitment Report, black men represent only two-percent of American public-school teachers.
Jonah will join the effort to change that as a recipient of a “Call Me Mister” Scholarship.
MISTER stands for “Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models.” UIC is one of 31 schools across the country involved in the program increase the pool of available teachers from a broader, more diverse background.
“We have to as a university and as a state figure out how we can make sure that students are no longer able to say never when they’re asked if had a teacher that looked like them,” Tatum said.
“I’m just excited. I get to do something for kids like me,” Durbin said. “I kind of get to change their future because they’ll have a teacher that’s like them. I get to share experiences with them throughout their life and hopefully, they can come to me later as well for advice.”
In a world desperate for role models beyond the big leagues and big screens, Jonah Durbin’s next step is to one day lead at the front a classroom. A man of color proving to his future students that if they can see it, they can achieve it.