As a child, Sharif El-Mekki was fortunate to attend an elementary school, Nidhamu Sasa, where he was surrounded by great Black educators and a sense of community.
“I never thought that I was unloved in that school,” he says now. But he knows that is not the case for every African American child in the United States.
This experience and the model of Dr. Martin Ryder, a well-respected Black educator now retired from the School District of Philadelphia, inspired Sharif to create the Center for Black Educator Development (CBED). This national nonprofit is creating a pipeline to increase the number of Black educators working in low-income communities. The Center recruits talented African American students from high school and college to participate in paid apprenticeships and mentorships to inspire them to pursue a career in education. Other programs include professional learning opportunities for educators and advocacy activities.
The current under-representation of African Americans among educators in public schools is jeopardizing our children’s future. In the School District of Philadelphia, only 24 percent of educators are Black, in contrast with the fact that 49 percent of the students are African American.
CBED has also benefited from the capacity-building support offered by SVP partners, as El-Mekki declares: “Transitioning from a grassroots nonprofit to an institution is going to take a lot of capacity-building efforts. We are grateful to have partners like SVP who can help us think through what it means to take an organization from its beginning stages to become a sustainable institution in our city. SVP Partners have very deep and varied expertise and we are fortunate to have access to it, which is absolutely critical for any organization--but especially ours.”
Starting this summer, the Center will be expanding to Detroit, the third city hosting its programs outside of Philadelphia and Camden. “Philadelphia is our home base, but we are now starting our expansion to other cities around the country that want to have a Black teacher pipeline in their region,” explains El-Mekki.
A critical part of this expansion plan is fundraising. The organization used the initial round of SVP’s investment to fund the Freedom School Literacy Academy program—namely hiring high school and college students as Black teacher apprentices, developing content, and buying materials. But ensuring the sustainability and expansion of the Center will require securing more resources, like multi-year grants and individual donations.
Sharif is reminded of the urgent need for more Black educators every time he hears a third-grade child refer to a Freedom School Literacy Academy teacher apprentice as my first Black teacher ever.”
Being surrounded by young people gives El-Mekki energy and inspiration. As he puts it: “When I see the youth, I think that hope and help are on their way.”
Social Venture Partners Philadelphia works side by side with nonprofits that are fighting to end poverty in Philadelphia. In a city where one in four of our neighbors is surviving on less than $24,000 per year, this work is urgent. For more information about our impact and how to become a Partner, visit here.
How can you support the Center for Black Educator Development?
- Donate via the organization’s website.
- Follow CBED on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn).
- Follow Sharif El-Mekki on Twitter and LinkedIn
- Share this blog on your social media
- Watch Building the Black Educator Pipeline, a YouTube show produced by the Center.
- Learn more about the Black male educator experience by reading this article prepared by Donors Choose with the collaboration of the Center for Black Educator Development.
- Visit www.Phillys7thWard.org