When we first talked about offering a scholarship to a student enrolled in an education program, we had no idea it would be so difficult to narrow it down to just one recipient.

In fact, a whole week after the deadline, we were barely able to narrow it down from 150 applicants to 12, and we struggled to pick our favorite. This confirmed for us what we already seemed to know: we had to offer more than one scholarship.

Ultimately, the entire company got to vote on the winners, and we were able to give one grand prize scholarship, in addition to two runner-up scholarships: one to Asaad Fulton, a graduate student at Northeastern University, and another to Rebecca Tamayo, an undergraduate student at Colorado Christian University.

This week, we’re excited to share Asaad’s essay with you, in which he talks about the value of representation in the classroom. Please check back next week for Rebecca’s essay, too!

Diverse Representation in the Classroom

Asaad Fulton, Candidate for Master of Arts in Teaching, Elementary Education

The way I plan on changing the world through education is simple, making my presence known. Men of color are one of the most under-represented groups in this field which is not a good representation. This is one of the main reasons I decided to pursue a career in education. By being a strong force in whatever school community I am apart of and through mastering a culturally responsive teaching practice, I believe I can make changes as well as raising awareness about the lack of diversity in the field. I remember growing up and going to school wondering why I didn’t see anyone like myself teaching in the classroom. It is a disservice to the communities that these schools reside in, to not have them be more diverse with the educators they choose.

Being relatable and having things in common with students helps promote student success. Not only have I been through many of the trials & tribulations that families in urban areas face, but I have experience what it is like being in many different schools and knowing how it feels. More importantly, some of the dealings that only youth in urban areas endure are things that I have experienced growing up, while getting an education as well. These are all reasons for me to not only be a teacher but a role model. Promoting student success by sharing my story with students, my colleagues, and the community I am teaching in.

Being a part of a community was very important in my childhood development and because of that, it is very important that I expose any student that I deal with to the positives of the community they live and go to school in. This could be as small as taking the class to the library to get them their first library card, to as big as starting a neighborhood initiative like a public garden or a recycling program. It is such a big deal for students to know who the leaders in their community are as well. I would love to set up a way for students to have Q&A sessions with members of the community that are making a difference. This is a way to inspire students to think outside the box and know that there are other career paths outside of sports, modeling, and being on TV.

Through instructional practice, I would like to promote the benefits of mindfulness. Since many of the students I have taught and will teach deal with different levels of trauma on a daily basis, I think it is vital to help students know how to meditate, relax, and find activities that they can turn to when it is time to spend time with themselves. Helping students learn about health and nutrition is also something that I would like to make a part of instructional practice. Showing students how to make meals and to make better choices with what they put in their body will be an important part of promoting that student success I strive for.

I have had many role models throughout my time learning in school. I hope that I will become the role model to someone they way that they were to me. My future goal in education is to earn a leadership position in a school, and become a principal. But, my ultimate goal is to start a school of my own. A school that incorporates all of the visions I outlined in this essay. A school that truly promotes the very best in students while making them active members of the community that practice self-respect.