ORANGEBURG, SC (WSPA)- Teacher recruitment and retention is a recurring problem in the state. And recruiting minorities is even tougher.
Data from the SC Department of Education shows out of the state’s 50,000 teachers, 1436 are African American males.
“My first experience in third grade was a black male,” said Demeturia Kelly, a current professor at Claflin University.
“He was my 6th grade teacher, that was the first time i was introduced to a black male teacher,” remembered Jamario James, a freshman at Claflin University.
“I did not have my first black male teacher until 8th grade,” added Kendrell Parker, an aspiring educator.
Having a black male teacher is not common. It’s a shortage felt nationwide.
Here in South Carolina, to recruit more black males, the Commission on Higher Education partnered with Claflin University to expose young men to the education field.
Demeturia Kelly serves as a mentor with the “Project Pipeline Repair” program. Kelly explained the purpose of the initiative.
“It’s more so about mentorship. Finding out the things that work for you, how does this relate to life, who do you see yourself impacting…”
Jamario James was one of the high school students selected for “Project Pipeline Repair.” Unlike other programs in the state, PRP targets students before they go to college.
“It was the greatest feeling ever not only did we get an opportunity but we were surrounded by guys that look like me,” James added.
Teachers and students say that familiarity and exposure fuels a student’s success and lays footsteps to follow.
James reflected on his first black male teacher, Mr. Jackson. He detailed how the teacher impacted him. “He made you feel like you were home or that big brother or that uncle or that role model. He molded me from what I was before to what I am now.”
Kendrell Parker attends the University of South Carolina and is currently in the school’s education program. Parker credits two teachers he had growing up as influential in his decision.
“Just to have that presence and have someone who looks like you that’s able to coach you through life and know the struggles and the economic status. It’s so comforting to have that in your environment.”
Nationally, only 2% of teachers are African American males.