Hey Teachers - This is For You! (Part 2)

Two weeks ago in Part 1 of our series ‘Hey Teachers, This is for You,’ we heard from our educator colleagues in the out of school time space. We also promised you that we would continue sharing reflections about teachers and the impact they have had on us, our lives and our futures. We are committed to sharing how teachers help us think differently and can open up worlds of glorious knowledge and experiences.

In November 2021 at the Missouri Afterschool Conference, I witnessed one of the most powerful keynotes from a scholar and speaker, Manny Scott. He shared his heartbreaking story of his childhood through the lens of each teacher he met that elevated him and helped him grow into the man, father, educator and inspirational speaker that he is today. It was theatrical, captivating, and motivating – he did his job. He pleaded with the audience to stay, stay in the field, because there are hundreds of thousands little Manny’s out there, and if it was not for a few key people, who did just a few caring things, he would have become a very different person. Isn’t this the work through? Well, that’s another blog. Thank you to Mr. Scott and all of the other outspoken folks out there who are working hard to retain our incredible educators. This series is for you, teachers!

In this week’s newsletter, we are sharing the reflections from three of our kid-grit the BOOK authors. We met when they were 17 years old. Now, they are young career professionals, living full lives. They are first generation college graduates who are caring, loving and thriving young people. Relationship building is key to the development of young people – this we know for sure.


Jamilah Mena

“Growing up in South Los Angeles as a daughter of Garífuna-Honduran parents, my identity was tested on a number of occasions. People told me that I should only check the Hispanic racial box, that because I speak Spanish I’m not Black enough, that since I speak English “funny” I’m an Oreo. When I was a sophomore at Dartmouth, I grabbed lunch with Professor Sharlene Mollett, and her approach to teaching classes and the fact that she chose to teach about the Garífuna gave me hope that my unique experience mattered and I need not try to assimilate. When I took her course on the Afro-descendant experience in Latin America, she called on me several times in class to share my story as a Garífuna woman. Never had I been in a classroom at Dartmouth where I could speak my authentic truth. I went on to write my senior honors thesis, with her guidance, on the impacts of tourism development on the Garífuna in Honduras. I won an award and published my work, reaching several people across campus and the world. I thank you, Dr. Mollett, for giving the voiceless a voice and for doing so at an institution that historically silenced us.”

Jamilah Mena – Licensing Strategic Partnering and Commercial Transaction, Gunderson Dettmer, LLP

Yury Amaya

“I am that nerdy student who likes to really do well in school. It all started with my kindergarten teacher, Ms.Guillen. She always made school fun, but at the same time competitive. I went to Marie H. Reed in Washington D.C. I loved going to school because I knew that she would be there and always have a smile on her face. She would always check in on me even after I passed to the next grade. I think I like school and enjoy it now because of such a great experience at an early age.”

Yury Amaya – UDC David A. Clarke School of Law

Mariah Harrod

“Ms. Bianca Abrams was my high school mathematics teacher at Cesar Chavez PCS in Washington, DC. She was one of the most funny and witty teachers I ever had. She was always encouraging and challenging me when I needed it. One of my most memorable moments with her was during the tail end of my senior year. She took me to the Carnegie Institution for Science for an event. She worked there as well. I remember being in awe the whole night. She gave me a tour around the building and introduced me to her other colleagues. Throughout the evening, she showed me how to network and engage in conversations. Not once did I feel out of place or intimidated. She made me feel like I belonged in every room I walked in. Driving back home, we discussed the evening and my future after graduation. That night with her truly impacted me. She inspired me to get outside my comfort zone and reach others.”

Mariah Harrod – Security Specialist, Department of Homeland Security



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