Many individuals have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity of a worthy purpose. My purpose for seeking a Doctorate Degree in Educational Policy Studies in Urban Education is to expand my knowledge of theory, organization and research methods as it pertains to education. I especially want to fine-tune my research skills as I feel that they are an essential part of becoming a lifelong learner both in and out of the classroom. In addition, gaining credibility amongst my future colleagues and people that I will be serving with in the field will be of utmost importance as I will ultimately leverage these relationships as I seek to pursue my goal of opening a private boarding school for youth who come from urban areas with limited financial resources.
My view of education is that of a reformist. In my experience, thus far, I have seen and experienced effective and ineffective educators. Most ineffective educators have poor leadership skills and limited cultural perspective. To be a successful educator, one must be a great leader and inspire others, with a constant eye towards continuous improvement and understanding. Rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach, more quality educational programs need to be developed, funded, and sustained. The ultimate end would be for all students, post matriculation, to go onto pursue additional education and inspire others to do the same.
Furthermore, I have an interest in the reform of education for young men of color based on my own experiences. As an African American male, who was a special education student and raised in a single parent home with limited resources, I know the feeling of helplessness you feel with all the limiting labels that are placed upon you. It is a feeling that most never recover from. I have seen how generations of these students have become prisoners by being illiterate and insufficiently educated around our city with little or no hope of getting free from their bondage. After my career in the National Football League (NFL) I soon realized that I had the opportunity to positively impact a young person’s life and how they view education. To me an education is something that no one can ever take from you and I believe that all children are entitled to a quality education no matter their economic background. This was the catalyst that birthed my dedication to education and made me the motivated and determined man I am today. I desire to serve as an example to youth that despite your circumstances, through hard work and dedication anything is possible.
I have committed my life to making a difference in young people’s lives wherever I can. Having accomplished my lifelong dream of making it to the NFL, my desire for mentoring and teaching young people prompted me to walk away from football to focus on pursuing my passion for teaching the next generation of leaders. While pursuing my Master’s degree in Higher Education I accepted a series of coaching and teaching positions at local high schools in the Chicago area, and began mentoring youth in partnership with various community organizations as well as my own organization “Walter Mendenhall Inc”. To broaden my reach, I began touring the country speaking at national conferences and various universities and have worked with organizations, and institutions such as; Nike, NFL, Young Entrepreneur Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, University of Illinois, etc. I am currently a visiting professor at Northeastern Illinois University (Leadership Development), Robert Morris University (Sociology) and Program Director at Circle Urban Ministries on the Westside of Chicago.
Through my work, I have developed leadership in others by serving as an example of how far you can go in education with dedication and hard work. By living my life as a lifelong learner, I have been an example to others who didn’t feel they could juggle school with work and learning deficiencies. I have never been one to do anything halfway, rather I believe that dedication and integrity are required to drive one to complete any tasks set before them no matter the level of difficulty. There are four primary values that I possess that drive not only my educational and professional endeavors but the foundation of how I manage my personal life as well: leadership skills, transformational change, diversity of thought, and humility. I believe that these characteristics would make me a great fit for the P.H.D. program in Urban Education with a specialization in organization and leadership.
- Leadership is the ability to motivate a group of people towards a common goal, including students and or staff. In addition, leadership is the ability to learn so that all can learn and grow. As an educator, every day I lead my students to dream things that never were and ask why not?
- Transformational change is understanding that all students in this country deserve the right to a quality education despite their economic status. I believe that this inequity has lasting effects on our children. My approach is that I, as an educator, can go above and beyond to reverse this effect on our kids while working tirelessly to ensure students acquire the skills that will enable them to be successful no matter where they are from. As an African American male, I would lead by example and play a major role in transforming my students’ perspective on life. Ultimately, I want to enable them to become productive citizens in their communities.
- I believe in diversity of thought, culture, and other regards. Growing up I remember teachers who were from a different background than me going beyond the classroom to dramatically impact my life. As the leader in my realm of influence I must approach every situation from a diverse perspective to ensure my students get the skills they need to be successful. Sometimes, educators do not realize the power they have to influence their students. I am a role model, leader, and mentor that helps kids reach their full potential and goals.
- Lastly, I am very humble in my approach to everything I do. I recognize that I am a leader who is learning. I am surrounded by gifted individuals that work together to ensure the success of the kids entrusted to our care.
To Conclude, my short-term goals include taking full advantage of the doctoral program to fine-tune and learn more about research and writing skills. I want to use and improve my knowledge in quantitative research using programs such as SPSS and Microcase, in tandem with qualitative research techniques. I want to develop a clear and concise understanding of leadership and the education profession and how the two mesh as one while enjoying the opportunity to develop a network of scholars and future administrators, participating in a rigorous intellectual process.
I want to be a leader of learning. I believe that I must surround myself with people that will help to cultivate my abilities to lead while challenging me to think outside the box. That’s finding the right mentor, working with experienced teachers and educators, and studying the needed resources to provide me with the knowledge and skill set to become successful as an educator.
My long-term goals are to take what I have learned during my time at the University of Illinois Chicago and leverage the knowledge attained to open my own school. I know that the preparation for that higher plane of achievement that has been instilled in me will serve me well in any educational or governmental occupation I will find myself in. Above all I will be secure in my ability to someway participate in the nation’s urgent need to educate more efficiently and comprehensively.