One of the great things about life is there are moments that can only be described as momentous or life-changing. Ask Dr. Howard Fuller, education leader and tireless fighter for helping to ensure marginalized communities have high-quality educational options available to them, and he might say this moment is humbling and on this day he is grateful.
Today, this great man, will be given the honor of having the school he co-founded in 2004—Milwaukee Collegiate Academy (MCA)—renamed Dr. Howard Fuller Collegiate Academy.
Being able to write about this honor and his legacy makes me feel like one of those up and coming actors presenting a lifetime achievement award to another actor that they’ve looked up to for ages and aspire to one day be.
Even in all of the hoopla, Dr. Fuller doesn’t want this day to be about him. Truth be told, he argued against the school’s moniker being his own because he’s crazy—in the sense that he’s had to do some crazy things for the community he cares so deeply about in the quest for liberation. I call it “the audacity of radicalism” and I love it. [pullquote]Sometimes you have to shake things up a bit to demand the change you seek.[/pullquote] Sometimes it takes starting Malcolm X Liberation University, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University—all of which Dr. Fuller did—to be deemed “crazy.” And that’s okay. Sometimes I wish we had more crazies willing to stand on the front line for the sake our children.
However, instead of this day being about him, Dr. Fuller wants this day to be about the people he’s been most passionate and genuine about. He wants it to be about the kids because that’s who he’s always been about. And he wants our attention focused on Shadavia, Raheem, Nate and the other seniors who will be announcing their college choices during MCA’s annual College Decision Day.
Dr. Fuller co-founded Milwaukee Collegiate Academy, formerly known as Clergy for Educational Options, because he had to.
In Dr. Fuller’s eyes, you can’t just fight for change, win that battle and leave your vision and implementation in the hands of apathetic people, you have to see that change through to the end. So if you’re going to preach better education for kids, be ready and willing to put your action and advocacy where your mouth is. Dr. Fuller did just that and much more.
There has been a demonstrated lack of commitment to educating Black students in this country, and it has always been MCA’s mission to change that. And because America hasn’t shown Black kids any love, [pullquote position="right"]Dr. Fuller’s priority at MCA has been to make sure those kids know they’re loved[/pullquote], cared about and are educated. He’s created an environment where students can maintain a sense of autonomy, while also understanding that discipline and joy can coexist.
Seniors, Shadavia Goodwin and Daeton McGhee, are proof of a mission fulfilled—professing that they wouldn’t be where they are without MCA.
Shadavia was reading at a fifth-grade level upon entering Milwaukee Collegiate her freshman year and was completely discouraged. But the support she received showed her that she was capable of comprehending the material and capable of achieving anything. This fall, she’s headed to Lakeland University in Plymouth, Wisconsin, but says she will still call MCA home.
During his junior year, Daeton had the opportunity to travel with Dr. Fuller and other students to San Francisco and that affirmed his decision to attend college at University of California, Riverside, this fall. Describing his time at MCA, Daeton expressed appreciation for his teachers, citing that they weren’t there for a check but actually cared about what he was learning. He is grateful for their help on his journey to college.
Now, Dr. Fuller isn’t oblivious to the conditions impacting kids before they walk in through his school’s door.
He acknowledges that over the 15 years MCA has existed, the depth of the problems that children are facing have worsened. He went on to say that, “despite the calamity of issues, we still have to figure out a way to give them the best education possible and while the task is more difficult, it’s also the reason why it’s more urgent.”
Dr. Fuller doesn’t claim to have all of the answers but the one thing he is clear about is, “the only change most of these children have in life is to get a decent education.”
So today is exciting for him and the entire Milwaukee Collegiate Academy community because 50 of their students are announcing their college selections. Dr. Fuller wholeheartedly believes that every kid should have that option—especially those that never thought they’d be holding a college acceptance letter.
But as glorious as today has been, Dr. Fuller knows there are still going to be kids in the building that will struggle to make it to their signing day. In reflecting on this, he had this to say:
The way I think about it at this moment, after re-reading Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Du Bois, we’re standing on the shoulders of all of these great people—all of us who chose the struggle. We have a deep responsibility to them, Big Mama, the current generation like Daeton and Shadavaia and the ones coming. We must do our part in that continuum of struggle—we’re at war for the hearts and souls of our children.
The fight continues, we won’t stop. Thank you to Dr. Fuller for helping bring us this far and congratulations to Milwaukee Collegiate Academy on its renaming to Dr. Howard Fuller Collegiate Academy.
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.
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