High School Inc. Administrator Talks Combating Male Dropout Rates

Month of the Man: High School Inc. Administrator Talks Combating Black Male Dropout Rates

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This month, BlackEnterprise.com presents Month of the Man, where we bring you career features tailored for male leaders of color all over the world. This week, author Brandon Frame shares, in his own words, his career journey and the keys to success that lead him to become an educational administrator at age 23. The Morehouse graduate who works with High School Inc., a four-year college prep school for Hartford Public School students in grades 9-12, talks the importance of undergraduate education and leadership tips for young black men.

During my matriculation at Morehouse College as a business marketing student, I came to the life-changing realization that I am passionate about helping young males of color realize their full potential. In June 2011, I was afforded the opportunity to fuse my passion for education and knowledge of business principles when I received a job offer from Terrell Hill, the founding principal of High School Inc., to become the director of business partnerships and program development. As a 23-year-old school administrator, I was aware that I may encounter some challenges with leading faculty and staff who are up to three times my age, but I knew that my past experiences, education and passion provided me with proper preparation for this leadership role.

Sustaining a consistent vision for the school is led by a question that is asked of all High School Inc. teachers: “Can you get your heart to beat at the same pace as the mine?” This question is important because it helps me build a rapport with the teachers while establishing my authority, despite my age. One of my many roles is to ensure our theme is effectively integrated in the school curriculum, which is why the faculty and staff’s vision for their classrooms must be in alignment with my overall vision for the school.

The structure of my role as a school administrator could be compared to that of a tiled floor. If you look at a floor, there could be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of tiles. While teachers are so dedicated and focused on their vision for their tile, which signifies their classroom, I have to be cognizant of what goes on in with each tile and that of the entire floor. I have to ensure that each teacher’s vision in their classroom aligns with my vision for the entire school. In order to effectively lead my school, I need each teacher’s heart to beat at the same pace as mine, so to speak, which drives their desire to teach at High School, Inc. I need for their passion for teaching to mirror how they would teach their own children. Oftentimes during their evaluations, I’ll ask, “Would you want your child sitting in your classroom?”

On June 12, we graduated our first group of four-year students. The more than 80 students in the Class of 2013 have been accepted to more than 50 top colleges and universities and have collectively earned more than $1 million in scholarships.

A major problem among young males of color is a high dropout rate. They drop out for two reasons: Over-aged and under-credited boys become severely disinterested in school, and many boys have been passed through the education system up until high school and don’t fully understand the concept of earning credits in order to move to the next grade, which essentially means they’ll fall into the over-aged and under-credited group of students. Because of this, I make it one of my top priorities to ensure our young males of color do not drop out of high school.

At High School Inc., young men who run the risk of dropping out are identified in their freshman year and aided throughout their matriculation to ensure they remain focused and motivated. They are exposed to people and programs that broaden their understanding of the opportunities that are available to them, while fostering skills that are essential to their success in school and in life.

The skills that I instill in my students are also transferable to young professional men of color in terms of leadership, education and career advancement. Here are a few tips that have helped me in my career path for students and millennials seeking success:

1. Respect the process: We live in the age of immediate gratification. We want to immediately turn difficult moments to brighter days or experience success. While it makes sense, it doesn’t serve us because process is where preparation happens. I would have not been able to lead High School, Inc. or TheBlackManCan to success if I did not respect the process. Patience is the art of waiting. Process is a prerequisite for success. Respect the process.

2. Find sponsors: We often hear about finding mentors but sponsors are just as important if not more important. Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, once said to me that “the most important decisions will be made when you are not in the room.” I was hired as a school administrator at 23, which is highly uncommon, because in the room where I was not located someone was in my corner making sure I was chosen as the man for the position.

3. Be consistent. Consistency is the hallmark of a strong brand. An individual knows that when dealing with you, he or she has a certain level of expectancy of the work you will put in and it is unquestioned.

Brandon Frame is the director of business partnerships and program development at High School Inc., in Hartford, Connecticut. He also serves as Chief Visionary Officer of TheBlackManCan.org, a Website that promotes positive stories and resources for black men, and author of Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men. The Morehouse College graduate is also an entrepreneur who launched a men’s neckwear line, Final Frame Ties. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonFrame or @TheBlackManCan.

August of 2009 by Terrell Hill