As point guard and captain of the Bluffton High School basketball team, Louis N. Brown III knows what it’s like to be measured by statistics.
His statistics were good enough to lead the Bobcats into the state playoffs this year.
But that’s not the kind of statistics Brown has been getting an earful about all his life from his father.
Bluffton native Louis N. Brown II always told his son not to become a statistic — a negative statistic that burdens African-Americans. Like this one: Tonight, more black and brown youth ages 16 to 24 will go to sleep in a jail cell than a college dorm.
Now, as the son approaches high school graduation, he’s got an opportunity to defy the statistics and stereotypes to become something he’s never experienced in 12 years of school: a black male teacher.
Brown has earned a state fellowship, worth up to $24,000, to get his college degree and return to the classroom as Mr. Brown, English teacher.
More than 900 high school students applied to become a South Carolina Teaching Fellow at colleges around the state next fall. Only 175 earned the offer for a college education and leadership training. In return, fellows agree to teach in South Carolina schools for four years.
Brown would attend S.C. State University under the program established in 1999 by the General Assembly. But his schooling began at home.
“I was fortunate to have my father in my life; a lot of people don’t,” Brown said.
His father said, “I was not like my son — I was not a good student, but I did have some teachers who pushed me.” He was in the last class to graduate from H.E. McCracken High School in 1983, then married his sweetheart, Vanesia, and joined the U.S. Army.
Through all the family moves, Vanesia Brown has been a preschool teacher. That passion influenced her son. His father’s lessons went like this: Think things through, think about consequences, think for yourself, and always have a backup plan.
Principal Bob Anderson says Brown has been an anchor for Bluffton High, where he enrolled as a sophomore after his father retired from the military.
Anderson said he’d love to have him back someday as Louis Brown, the teacher.
Brown is in the National Honor Society, Strive to Excel and the Keystone Club. After school, he works with youngsters at the Bluffton Boys & Girls Club, where he’s learning the power, and burden, of being a role model.
A lot of the problems of society and schools stem from a lack of good role models.
South Carolina has one answer that’s become a role model of its own. The “Call me MISTER” program at Clemson University — created to get more minority male teachers into elementary and middle schools — is being copied around the nation. Director Roy Jones told me we’re on “a collision course with our black and brown youth.” He says it’s no accident black males are by far the most to be referred for discipline, expulsions and special education. Too few black male teachers — about
1 percent overall — are there for them, Jones says.
If Brown can change that statistic, it may be impossible to measure.