Chimere Stephens, the senior director of diversity and recruitment for the 900,000-student New York City public school system, has made it his mission to start as early as possible in enticing men of color to teach in the district.
As part of the city’s NYC Men Teach program, he convenes about 30 college students to the Big Apple every summer. They get a crash professional development course, followed by hands-on experience working as classroom assistants in summer school.
The vision for the fellowship came following a successful city-wide recruitment drive to get 1,000 more men of color in the classroom. But the district turned a number of applicants away, because of barriers like not meeting a GPA requirement or not having the resources for graduate school.
Stephens realized that starting early, with college students, might be the best strategy in finding new recruits. He spoke to Education Week about the program. This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
What were the biggest challenges implementing this program?
I had to show [funders] that the underclassmen who returned to their respective colleges following the program’s end were actually saving us money from having to have recruiters travel to college and universities nationally to recruit. Because now the programs’ alums would serve as an extension of our recruitment team. These participants are not only familiar with the NYC Men Teach mission, vision and values, but they have lived them firsthand for eight weeks in New York City.
How are you measuring the success of this program?
We ask whether those who participated in the summer fellowship are on track to graduate and complete coursework at their respective colleges. We review student teaching evaluations and metrics to ensure that participants have demonstrated growth as a result of the summer program [We ask]: are underclassmen returning to their colleges and serving as student ambassadors for subsequent years to promote the NYC Men Teach Summer Fellowship? Are students taking advantage of the supports that we offer, such as certification exam vouchers, mentorship, and ambassadors who provides one-on-one support?
What do you wish you had known when you started it?
I wish we had know how close these young men would become to both the program and one another. The relationships that have been built are lifelong. I wish I had known that I would need an engaging online platform to keep alums of the program connected, informed, and engaged.
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