A 2013 PC Fellow, Michael Carter is a Springfield local who, upon graduating from Smith worked as a teacher and then administrator at KIPP schools in Oklahoma. Michael Carter now prepares young people to be informed, responsible and effective global citizens in an out-of-school program in California. Here, Michael shares how PC showed him that education can be more than teaching in a classroom.
PC: What are you doing now?
Michael: I am currently the Program Director for a youth social justice organization called the Encampment for Citizenship. I am responsible for coordinating workshops across the country with young people and running a social justice camp that runs for 4 weeks over the summer for high school youth.
PC:Tell us a highlight memory from your time with Project Coach.
Michael: My highlight memory from my time with Project Coach was watching Joe Wray, Charlie Melo, and Armani grow into real leaders. I watched them work with the younger students at Gerena, and then I watched them interact with their peers. They took on responsibility and learned that leadership is more than just "talk". I found it an honor to be part of their development process. It has certainly developed my passion for youth development.
PC: How did Project Coach impact who you are now, and what you're doing in your life?
Michael: Watching young people grow, exposing them to the tools they already possess, and their potential to do even more is something that I first experienced while at Project Coach. Project Coach instilled in me a different approach to education-- one that rolls up the sleeves and gets dirty. Project Coach showed me that by truly investing in young people-- going to their games, meeting their families, genuinely asking about their day-- you build a relationship with young people that not only transforms them academically, but transform the world in which they live. This is the reason that I left the traditional classroom. During my last year as a teacher, I had a realization that teaching was incredibly difficult for all the wrong reasons. The young people were distressed, hungry, mentally and physically abused, lacking self esteem, lacking love and in need of someone they could trust. It was in that moment that I realized that the community was fractured, and that until the community could be put back together teaching would always be this hard.
PC: Team is a big part of life in Project Coach. Who’s on your team in your current life & work?
Michael: Although I am the Program Director of the organization, I am aware of the need for teamwork. Our organization is extremely small, but I have come to understand that the success of our organization depends on the great partnerships with other organizations. Together we work as a team to impact the lives of young people.
PC: What big idea, project, adventure has your attention?: What’s your next play?
Michael: Eventually I would like to start my own organization-- perhaps a school, or a nonprofit community center for youth and adults. I love what I do currently, but it does not allow me to work with young people consistently, and it's the young people who energize me and keep me pushing. Whether I start a school or a community center, the focus would be the same. The focus would be on critical thinking, social justice, and the arts. It's an idea that I have been toying with a lot lately, but I hope to realize it within the next 3-5 years.