Approximately 24 students will be officially inducted into Claflin University’s Call Me MISTER program.

The Call Me MISTER program is designed to increase the number of African American male teachers working in South Carolina’s classrooms.

Call Me MISTER collaborator Hayward Jean said, “There is an overabundance of negative role models out there today.

“We are creating positive role models for children inside and outside the classroom”

Jean said the induction ceremony is the first of its kind and marks the start of a major push to recruit more minority teachers.

A teacher at Marshall Elementary School, Jean won the 2009 NAACP Presidential Citation for Education Advocacy. But he acknowledges that his path to success didn’t come without a mentor.

Years ago, he was watching television one night when Salome Thomas-El, an education consultant and author, appeared on C-SPAN. He was amazed by the consultant’s enthusiasm for teaching.

That prompted him to e-mail Thomas-El for advice. To Jean’s surprise, the educator responded.

And Thomas-El will be the featured speaker on Friday evening.

“Basically, my mantra is that every child deserves someone that is crazy about them,” Thomas-El said. “We have to be strong enough to never give up on them.”

While teaching at Vaux Middle School in Philadelphia, Thomas-El’s classes gained worldwide recognition by winning National Chess Championships eight times. He used the game of chess to elevate his students’ self-esteem and heighten their reasoning skills.

Thomas-El chronicled that experience in his first book “I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City.” His second book, “The Immortality of Influence,” features a chapter on Claflin’s Call Me MISTER program.