Mike Brown was on track to be another black boy who dropped out of the New York City school system but there were a few things that kept him from that fate. On this Thanksgiving holiday, hear Mike Brown, 18, tell the story of his evolution from a disaffected tenth grader to a grateful and ambitious graduate of Frederick Douglass Academy.
“I never thought about my future,” Brown said about his younger self. “I just cut school. My friends would say things like, ‘Yo Mike, where you been!? We thought you died.’”
Studies show that 90 percent of high school dropouts missed significant portions of school prior to withdrawing. When Brown was in the 10th grade he seldom attended school and when he did show up he was late. He was living with his grandmother who did not stay on top of his schedule.
“By sophomore year, I wasn’t doing so well,” Brown said, “My mom thought I would be another young black male on the street.”
And she told him so. “I just didn’t think you could pull it off,” his mother said. One day she took him to meet Kamau Ptah, the program director at Urban Assembly Academy for History and Citizenship for Young Men. She wanted her son to transfer there.
That 15-minute conversation made something click, Brown said. He said Ptah talked about how a lot couldn’t be achieved without an education and asked Brown to think about what he wanted out of life.
“I did pull my act together,” Brown later told Ptah. “It was because of the talk that me and you had with my mom, getting me together, so I wanted to thank you for that talk and inspiration.”
In response, the teacher simply said: “Thank you for taking heed.”