PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When students at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary in North Philadelphia return Tuesday – they may meet some new classmates. They will also meet 23-year-old Quamiir Trice who has been hired as assistant program coordinator as he works on becoming a teacher. Trice is familiar with the area; he grew up about 15 minutes away.
“My mom was addicted to drugs; my dad was incarcerated for my entire life,” Trice shared his story with Rahel Solomon. He’s hoping by sharing his story he will be able to relate to some students in a way that others can’t.
Trice said when his younger brother died he began acting out in class, saying he “ended up getting kicked out of school because of my ongoing misbehavior.”
He began selling drugs and at 15 years old he was arrested and sentenced to a juvenile detention facility.
“I remember my aunt crying when I walked up the steps and literally couldn’t even look at me. My grandmother, I’m pretty sure, she had already cried but she had this look of disappointment on her face. And my little brother was right next to her, he didn’t even go to school yet. And for all the cops to be inside our house to be pointing weapons at them.” Trice remembered, adding the experience was a turning point for him.
Trice began focusing on his school work and graduated from the facility salutatorian and ultimately graduated from Howard University.
“I cried right before graduation because it was such a big deal. Not just for myself but for my family and the people who believed in me and the people who supported me,” Trice said.
As a campus leader, he also met President Barrack Obama, looking at the picture of their meeting he said, “I hope it means that [students] can see themselves in that picture. Like literally. Either myself or in the president.”
As Trice works to now become a teacher he knows he’d be a rarity. According to district figures as of last year, African-American men made up only about four percent of teachers. Nationally, the percentage is even lower at about two percent.
Districts around the country tried to recruit Trice but he said it was important for him to return to his hometown.
“Philly was the reason I even considered teaching,” Trice said.
When asked if there’s a message he’d share with a younger Quamiir he said, “This is not the end of your life, the end of your story,” adding “I still believe that there is so much left for me to do.”