These are the words of this weeks EXTRAordinary Black Man. Meet Howard R. Jean Director of the Call Me MISTER program at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania the oldest HBCU in the country. Mr. Jean made time to sit and answer some questions for us.
TheBlackManCan: Howard, you are currently the Program Director for The Call Me MISTER program at Cheyney University. Can you tell us what this program is all about?
HJ: The Call Me MISTER program, started in 2000 at Clemson University by Dr. Tom Parks and a team of visionary leaders, was created to addresses the shortage of African-American men as elementary teachers. Call Me MISTER is a teacher leadership program that provides a dynamic curriculum and scholarships, which enhance a pre-service teacher’s experience. This enables them to gain experiences that produce highly qualified teachers who are also serve as mentors. Each MISTER is obligated to return to their community as teachers for each year they receive in Call Me MISTER support.
Call Me MISTER is not just a program but a lifestyle commitment to embark on a mission to diversify the face of classrooms in America, change how African-American men are perceived by America and most importantly, improve the quality of how our children are educated in America. Since the program’s inception, the mission has been to re-instill a sense purpose and passion in the classrooms through African-American men who are teachers and mentors. We are dedicated to producing, as Bill Cosby said upon his visit for a brunch we sponsored in his honor, teachers who not only focus on the textbooks but instill hope, creativity, faith, love, respect and compassion to each child they come in contact with. Because our MISTER’s are products of these communities they intend to serve, they “overstand” the rationale and motivations of our youth, which will allow them to address issues at the core. Many times we focus at crucifying the product of the problem and not the core of the problem.
TheBlackManCan: Why is it important to increase the number of African American teachers in particular African American males?
HJ: Increasing the participation rate of African-American men in the education system will create a social ripple effect which can repair many of the problems that we all are faced to deal with. Incorporating African-American men in the development of the next generation of leaders allow African-American men to become investors in society. These future leaders, regardless of their race, will be positively impacted by an African-American man, which either breaks down walls or creates no space for walls to be built as it relate to race relations. Furthermore, having African-American men in positions of leadership in the education system gives them a platform to serve their community. Digesting the cold facts that, have a higher incarceration rate, participate higher in the unemployment rate than the college going rate are overrepresented in special education programs across Americas schools and 50% of black males do not graduate high school. Call Me MISTER seems to address this cultural pandemic with societal implications with the placement of African-American men as teachers, mentors and role models.
TheBlackManCan: You are the founder and C.E.O. of S.E.I.L. (Success through Education, Inspiration and Leadership) What led you to start this organization and what are the mission and goals?
HJ: S.E.I.L. (Success through Education, Inspiration and Leadership) was started with the help of 5 friends and family members I attended high school with who left home to pursue an education and returned shortly after graduating from college. The original members or S.E.I.L. are my twin brother (who is also a teacher and graduate of the MISTER program), Hayward Jean, Travis Johnson, L.J. Brown, Bruce Hickson and Carlos Cato. We, possessing the urge to start early in impacting our community, came together to form S.E.I.L. I conceptualized the organization from a philosophy that success can be achieved by understanding the importance that education, learning, religion, inspirational messages and leadership plays. Initially the goal was to place the African-American male at the center of our programs and initiative so that the community can build around and with them. The mission grew to focus on various disadvantaged areas of our community without direct focus on any particular race or gender.
Our goals are to simply provide support, resources and experiences to members in our community through programming and mentorship. The mission is to raise the involvement of community members, broaden the perspective and provide empowerment strategies for growth and development in tangible and intangible areas.
TheBlackManCan: You truly have a national reach, you also helped found and currently chair Success for Life which is based in South Carolina. What led to the founding of this organization?
HJ: Through my work with S.E.I.L. and the radio talk show “Brothers Let’s Talk About It” where members of S.E.I.L. and I discussed issues that affected our community from a younger perspective (all of us being 22 to 23 years old) and coming up with solutions on air attracted the attention of others who shared similar interests to help impact the community. Mr. Rhonda Ray, CEO, asked that I chair her board and being a participating co-founder, which humbled me because of the task at such a young age. Success For Life Inc. is geared towards providing supporting to students in the Aiken County Public and Charter School systems with programming, tutoring and scholarships. We have impacted students at each of the 7 high schools in Aiken County with a scholarship for students who are products of single-parent households; of which I am also a product.
TheBlackManCan: You are currently writing a Book “Be the CEO of YOU”, can you share some information on this project?
HJ: “Be the CEO of YOU” is the production title of a current project which will circulate around the book. My book simply started out as a daily text message. I sent texts focusing on what was revealed as it related to accomplishing goals and restructuring my life to a group of friends affectionately named “Movers and Shakers”. My text messages went from one page texts to two page texts to three page texts and so on. I received positive feedback and turned them into a daily email. I added more names to the distribution list and which began to be circulate around offices of colleagues and friends. My messages became the core of morning meetings for teams and etc. I felt that my perspective and voice on success and maintaining focus could help others as it was helping me, so I started writing the book. I maintain the organic feel of my writings through maintaining the same method of typing the thoughts into my BlackBerry.
I am confident that “Be the CEO of YOU” will help people reorganize, restructure and achieve success in all areas of their life. I will share and connect with people through all mediums of communication in order to make the message accessible by everyone which makes it a 3-dimensional product. When we hear CEO, it resonates leadership, importance, status and many other positive adjectives. When we see the word “YOU” there are mixed emotions. In my opinion, that shouldn’t be the case. At the core of everyone lies a dream, purpose and mission in life. That dream, purpose and mission has to be managed like a company and taken seriously as if it is worth millions of dollars. By transferring the same esteem into various areas of our life, the product will yield SUCCESS. Because the project is still being developed, I cannot share too much but I share tangential thoughts on my twitter page, and website (which is currently under construction). I look to have everything in place by the end of this year and on the road and in shelves throughout the year of 2011.
TheBlackManCan: You have a strong record of giving back to the community in-particular the one you grew up in. Why is it important to be socially conscience?
HJ: Giving and receiving is a cycle in life that many people have misconstrued. Two reasons motivate me to give back; our fallen ancestors and the future generations.
Our ancestors who gave their lives for us to be here did it blindly. I say blindly because they could not imagine the terminal ending that they were sacrificing their lives for but did it with hope and faith that their contribution would be for the better. Hope and faith are two of the most underused but most powerful words in the English language. The courage, confidence and will to maintain hope and faith in spite of whatever may be going on should never go unnoticed.
Secondly I am motivated to give back because of the future generations to come. Legacy building through legacy giving is something I feel that we all should take part in. Passing down wealth is imperative but also passing down the virtue or giving, benefits an entire society. I believe that actions of “good” will not only support people in their current state but also perpetuates an ideal and plants seeds of philanthropy and humanitarianism.
TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you want to leave with today’s youth?
HJ: I’d like to share a message that I share with groups across the country as an empowerment speaker, “Embracing your celebrity, celebrating your own identity” ™. They should embrace the celebrity that lies within them and celebrate their own identity. The youth of today sometimes spend more time studying and idolizing their favorite actor, musician, artist and etc. They can share with you the details of their favorite celebrity’s life to the last public appearance but rarely spend the same amount of time learning about who they are or loving themselves. They sometimes lose themselves into the reality TV phenomenon, leaving their own lives empty with no purpose, substance, or zest. I want to tell the youth the same air, same thoughts and same time it takes your favorite celebrity to perfect their craft or create, you have access to the same tools. They became who they were because they embraced who they were and enjoyed being themselves, in most cases. Your life is just as valuable as theirs and can have the same impact they have in their field. The only thing that separates them form you is their work ethic and accepting the challenge to be great! The same greatness that lies in them lies in you also.
I would like to commend you and your team on the work you are doing, taking the work of these great men you are connected to from the silos in which we work to a medium that can connect us all. I salute you brother, Godspeed.
Contact information for Mr. Howard R. Jean is below.
Mr. Howard R. Jean
Director of the “Call Me MISTER” Program
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
1837 University Circle Harris-Turner Building, 109 Cheyney, PA 19319
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