by Cassy Arsenault - WKRC

There’s a push to put more Black and brown male educators in preschool, and the man leading that charge is Carlton Collins.

Collins in the program manager for the Literacy Lab and the Leading Men Fellowship Cincinnati (LMFC).

His passion for filling this gap started years before this first-of-its-kind program. He created the Morehouse Education Association, an organization dedicated to the increase of Black men in classrooms through tutoring, mentoring, internships, and teaching post-matriculation.

As the manager of LMFC, he places 18-24 year old men of color into local preschools as literacy tutors. The program features barrier navigation and removal, professional development activities, and an education award at the end of their fellowship year. The goal is to dramatically improve the paucity of male educators of color across the K-16 spectrum.

“In year one, we are supposed to have 20 fellows, year two, 30 fellows, year three, 40 fellows. So, the program is designed to continue to expand,” said Collins.

Black men represent less than two percent of the teaching population in K-12. That lack of representation and perspective is what brought 19-year-old John Harris to the program.

“In our community, there are a lot of stereotypes put on us — like, we are nothing but drug dealers, nothing but rappers, nothing but basketball players, nothing but football players. I don’t rap. I can’t rap to save my life. I can make a good poem,” said Harris.

It’s his passion for a good poem, and to be a Black role model in the classroom, that brought him to the Literacy Lab. He’s now in a year-long program that pays to put him in pre-schools before he gets his bachelor’s degree.

Collins was a teen father, and he was raised by a single father. He knows what it means to be a strong role model, and to have one, and he wants that for all brown and Black students in their educational space. He’s secured $3 million in funding for this program for the next three years.

“Yes, it would be great to create 20 educators, but to me, it’s more important to create 20 strong young men,” Collins said.

Carlton’s vision goes far beyond creating great educators.

“There’s this great stat that comes from John Hopkins University, and a study that they did, that if a Black child has a Black teacher anywhere in their K-12 experience, they are 40 percent less likely to drop out of high school,” said Collins.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, only 47% of preschoolers are literacy-ready for kindergarten.

“I think, when you don’t see yourself represented, you never see yourself potentially in that role,” Collins said.

Collins is filling a gap for the future of Black and brown preschoolers, while giving people like John Harris purpose.

“I am figuring it out, and I am becoming more and more passionate every day about helping kids,” Harris said.

Collins is receiving the NAACP’S Empowering Education Award for LMFC. That program still has three slots open for the 2022-23 school year.

See the NAACP Education Award here.

Go to website and watch video.

September 15th 2022