TheBlackManCan has made its way to Philadelphia, PA to bring you another Black Man making positive and remarkable contributions in the city of brotherly love. We proudly present educator and servant leader Raymond Roy-Pace Founder and Executive Director of BeU365. Raymond sits down with TheBlackManCan to discuss being a scholar-athlete, lifting as you climb, pursuing advanced degrees and advice for young men of today.
TheBlackManCan: Raymond, can you share a little about your childhood and how it shaped you into the man you are today?
RP: I grew up in an impoverished urban community in Philadelphia, PA. I spent time living with my mother and grandmother as a child. My neighborhood was plagued with the same issues of drugs, violence and lack of resources that most urban communities are faced with. Firsthand experience with some of these issues in my own home weaved a tough skin and an unrelenting will to become better than the world I was so familiar with. I would not be the man I am today without the unwavering support I received from my grandmother and my other family members. My uncles each stepped in at pivotal times in my development not only to help usher me in to manhood but to broaden my horizons and expose me to a world unlike my own.
TheBlackManCan: You are the perfect example of what it means to be a scholar-athlete. How do we get more young men to realize what it means and the importance of being a scholar–athlete?
RP: To get students to understand what it means to be a scholar athlete we need to give them some of those who exemplify those qualities. Myron Rolle was a Rhodes Scholar and aspiring neurosurgeon. He spent time in the NFL but eventually choose to practice medicine. Maurice Bennett was a 4 year Academic and Football All American that passed over the NFL because he would become more profitable working on Wall Street. I provided these examples because these men created options for themselves. I am an academic and scholar athlete sidelined after a subdural hematoma (bleeding in the head). I was successful in the completion of two degrees, successful in developing my own youth development program and while also educating others in the classroom. 1 million children playing football, approximately 250 of them will make a NFL team each year. In other sports these numbers may vary but not too far off. The world of athletics has its own fan club. The same way we glorify the kid who made the buzzer beater shot in a game, we have to do the same with every positive note a teacher’s sends home and every A or B on a report card so our kids can began to see value in hard work and excelling in the classroom.
TheBlackManCan: You spent time as a case manager focusing on truancy. Can you tell is the three major issues behind truancy and what steps need to be taken to overcome them?
RP: The most consistent issues I saw facing students involved in truancy where the low expectations for students either imposed in them by the family or school. For some of the families it was hard to see value in education if they did not have it. Poor coping skills within the families in dealing with life’s issues and the lack of positive role models were also a contributing factor. So many students are experiencing “life” but they do not have the support system within the homes or schools to keep them encouraged. It is hard to open up to people when they do not feel they understand them.
TheBlackManCan: How important is it to lift as you climb? How has this ideology helped you in life?
RP: I have been fortunate in my life to have incredible mentors take chances on me when I had nothing to offer but a will to work. It would be robbery if I did not do the same for others. We are more successful when we employ others to exercise their gifts because they then become resources.
TheBlackManCan: As a 5th grade teacher can you share with us what parents should be doing in the home to make sure their child arrives on grade level?
RP: Research indicates one of the number one indicators of student academic success is their reading ability. It is important for families to establish a reading schedule within their homes. Just spending 15-30 minutes a day reading or being read to would expand students’ imaginations, open their eyes to the world around them and ultimately prepare them for school. Parents should also talk to children their children because encourages them to communicate what they feel and helps them to understand why which could ultimately have a great impact on classroom and peer behavior.
TheBlackManCan: Tell us more about BeU365. What is the meaning behind the name and the mission and vision?
RP: BeU365 is a self-developed program that aspires to inspire youth through creative education, mentorship and real world experiences. The vision came from the idea of wanting to encourage young people to be who they truly are and not conform to the expectations of society. The three pillars of the program consist of creative education, mentorship and real world experiences, all of which are geared towards various aspects of helping to create positive and independent thinking. Creative education incorporates a project learning based curriculum designed to strengthen basic math skills but from a real life perspective and the facilitation workshops. Mentorship encompasses one-on-one mentorship, the speaker series, and mentoring curriculum. The real world experiences that are still in development focus on getting middle school students out of the classroom and into internships to apply what they are learning.
TheBlackManCan: You recently obtained a Master’s degree. What did you pursue it and why is it important to show young people that they should pursue more than just a bachelor’s degree?
RP: Yes! Ma’ma I made it! (laughs) I completed my Master of Arts and Teaching from Cheyney University in December 2012 after several conversations with my mentor Howard Jean about my career endeavors. He encouraged me to consider it if I planned to make a long lasting impact in the world of education. The journey of completing my masters was invaluable because I was able to share it with my students. Particularly in our urban communities, higher education is a mystery because they have so few examples of people that have obtained degrees. Our world is changing and the status quo is unacceptable, that is to say if ever it was acceptable. The jobs of old are no longer available and to be a part of the decision making process may also mean having those credentials.
TheBlackManCanWhere do you see yourself and your endeavors in the next five years?
RP: In the next five years I see myself back in education administration as a school leader. When I resigned from running the operations of Birney Prep Academy, it was to gain the practical experience that will ultimately help me become an informed school founder. There is a lot of politics that go into running schools and having my own school I believe I can limit some of that.
TheBlackManCan: Why is it important for Black Boys and Men to see positive images of themselves?
RP: We aspire to be what we see. There cannot be an expectation of young black boys to gravitate towards becoming something they cannot identify with. There are very prominent youth and men of color making a positive impact in the world however it is not exactly breaking news at ten. Young people are looking for someone to aspire to be and we must be the ones willing to be the example.
TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you have for young black males of today?
RP: To my young black brothers understand that your life is purposed. You have gifts and talents that the world awaits to unwrap. Wherever you find yourself in life it is not by mistake. There is a lesson to be learned in preparation for your greater. Spend time talking to those that have experienced more of life than you, there you will find wisdom. Your education does not stop when the school bell rings, keep a book handy and unlock the mysteries of life. Know who you are and whose you are. The pressures of life will attempt to challenge the existence of your being, define yourself to withstand the pressure.
Check out Raymond website here–> www.raymondrpace.com