St. George's Today
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Photo by Justin Fox Burks
What year did you graduate from St. George’s?
Where did you attend college?
Rhodes College for B.S. in Pure Math
UC Santa Cruz for a master’s degree in Math
Where do you live and what is your profession?
Memphis, TN. I am the Lead Instructor at HopeWorks Adult Education in charge of correctional education.
How did St. George’s prepare you for college, career, and life?
The teachers at St. George’s gave me an incredible education and amazing support which gave me the confidence to pursue any career that I felt passionate about. My friends (Tim Robinson, Kate Sowers, Melanie Scruggs, Max Gabreski, and Tyler Roche) were all key role models who helped me become who I am today.
In what activities/sports/clubs, etc., were you involved while at St. George’s?
I was an incredibly mediocre lacrosse and soccer player, co-chair of the Peer Leadership Council, VP of Invisible Children Club, Juggling Club, Knowledge Bowl, Mu Alpha Theta
How did you get involved in working in the prison system?
After finishing my master’s at UC Santa Cruz and serving as a lecturer in the math department, I moved back to Memphis feeling really motivated to engage the community. I was tired of staying up all night working on abstract math and being completely separated from a world that has so many problems. Especially after reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ incredible article “The Case for Reparations,” I knew that I wanted to somehow participate in social and racial justice work. As an adult, I had never fully considered the incredibly devastating impact of education inequity, violence, red lining and other discriminatory loan practices, unfair criminal justice systems, and all of the other terrible policies particularly over the past 100 years. Our society has a huge problem with shrugging off all of these very real events and pretending that we are all starting off with equal opportunity, and I finally realized that so much disadvantage and abuse does not just disappear. If we ever want justice in our society, we have to work actively against it. But, I struggled and when I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the idea to volunteer as a GED teacher at 201 Poplar and the Penal Farm hit me like a train. After volunteering 15-20 hours a week for a year, HopeWorks hired me, and now I have my dream job.
Was there a moment in time, in high school, that you believe shaped your interest in working in education in general and in the prison system in particular? If so, tell us about it.
I don’t think there was a particular moment, but I was intensely interested in teaching/tutoring and social justice in high school. I spent a lot of time trying to understand how every level of our society (especially education) is still segregated. In particular, I spent a lot of time researching the relationship between educational inequity and increases in gang affiliation.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Being friends with so many hilarious people. I love my students and really appreciate their trust and respect despite our extremely different lives.
Which teacher had the greatest impact on you’re and why?
Crista Smothers. When I came to St. George’s my junior year, I took AP Physics, and I can still remember how excited I was every single day to go to class. Aside from the curriculum, Ms. Smothers was my mentor and constantly encouraged and supported me during the transition to my new school.
What is your favorite St. George’s memory?
During AP Physics Lab with Mrs. Smothers, we had a lab in which a ball rolling across a table would go off the edge and fall to the ground. Lauren Gabreski (a fellow student) and I were tasked with predicting exactly where it would land on the floor. Using electronic speed sensors and some math, we marked where we thought it would land, and when the ball fell, it landed on our exact prediction. It was one of the most satisfying feelings that I have ever had and was a moment that would later convince me to be a math major in college.
What advice would you give to St. George’s students or young alumni today?
Don’t do what is easy. Get out of your comfort zone, and work as hard as you possibly can to use your privilege to empower others.
What would you say to a prospective family looking at St. George’s?
Diversity is incredibly important for well-rounded and mature students, and although almost all private schools have work to do, I believe that St. George’s is a leader in diversity for Memphis private schools. Every day that I went to school, I felt engaged academically and supported emotionally. Honestly, academics only get you so far in life, and I believe that the loving teachers and students gave me the confidence to lead and to be who I am today. I absolutely loved my St. George’s experience and feel incredibly fortunate to have attended.
What are your future plans? Will you continue working in the prison system and/or education?
I will definitely continue working in the prison system. I might go back to graduate school for criminal justice policy or transition to more general re-entry efforts, but for right now, I love my job and can’t really see myself doing anything else.