By Caroline Klapp - WAFF 48

Diversity in the classroom matters. Alabama A&M is spending money to support that statement.

If you’re a man, identify as a minority race and want to be a teacher, you could get two years of your tuition paid for.

The program is called the Males for Alabama Education initiative. It’s all possible thanks to a grant from the state.

“Close your eyes and think about If you had a black male teacher or African American male teacher, and if the answer is no, that is not uncommon,” program director for the Males for Alabama initiative, Samantha Strachan said.

Two percent: that’s the amount of teachers in the U.S. who are African American males.

Keon Thomas is trying to change that. He’s one of nine minority men in the Males for Alabama program.

He says the inspiration came from his high school track coach.

“Having him talk to me and give me that kind of feedback on how it is to be a teacher, and seeing the impact he has on the community. And just that alone, I want to be able to have that impact on students,” Thomas said.

Thomas says learning about the opportunity came at a critical time.

“I was getting to the end of my financial aide, so them coming in with this scholarship and then me fitting their criteria. It kind of helped me in a major way,” he explained.

While he’s pursuing his bachelor degree in education, he’s also getting mentorship and two years of free tuition under the program.

Strachan says having diversity in the classroom is very valuable.

“Having a diverse teacher population ensures students are exposed to educators from a variety of backgrounds and who have a variety of experiences,” she said.

Thomas says he knows his presence will make a difference.

“These kids need to see us. They need to see black males that motivate them. We can reach them on a different levels,” Thomas said.

Alabama A&M received more than $200,000 for the program last year.

For more information on how you can apply, click here.