It’s always our pleasure to highlight all members of the DREAM Team for objectively exemplary work, but in honor of Black History Month, Democracy Prep is especially excited to highlight Black DREAM Team members on the DPPS blog.
Emmanuel George is the Senior Director of School Solutions for Democracy Prep. Prior to his current role, he served as the Executive Director of Bronx Prep for four years and before that, as principal of Democracy Prep Harlem Middle. Those formative years guide him in his current role as Senior Director of School Solutions.
Initially he was resistant to the idea of leading the Bronx Prep turn-around. He knew he’d have to win over the students and their families, many of whom did not know the school was in danger of needing turn-around support. During a meeting with scholars’ families, their passion and urgency left an impression on Emmanuel.
“Seeing the distress in the Bronx Prep parents made me think about my own background of how I was raised. My mom and my brothers taught me about being conscious and understanding the plight of our people. To be frank- Bronx Prep parents’ distress hit home with the values that were instilled in me,” said Emmanuel.
Students who attended Bronx Prep reached out to Emmanuel to voice their concerns about the future of their school.
“I spoke to students for a couple of hours,” said Emmanuel. “I talked to kids who were concerned about their school [and asked me], ‘What are your plans for our school?’ And I was honest; I said, ‘I don’t know the school well enough to have a plan yet. But we’re going to have a plan and this school is going to be better than what it is now.’”
And Emmanuel began to deliver on his promise; Bronx Prep achieved impressive growth during the turn-around.
“For the rest of the time that I work in education, that’ll be the experience that I value more than anything else because it taught me [that] when you make a promise to families, and kids, [you must] work hard to keep it,” said Emmanuel. “Some of the same kids that were protesting when we got there [hugged] me when I left,” he added.
Even though Emmanuel is no longer ED of Bronx Prep, he makes a point of visiting the campus frequently and maintaining his relationships with staff and scholars there.
“The kids need to see that even though I went to the ‘Democracy Prep network’ (because there’s still a distinction in their eyes) you’re someone who is always going to come back,” said Emmanuel. “You develop relationships with the kids. And you want to see them through. You want to let them know, ‘Hey; I’m there.’”
But the visits to Bronx Prep are just as important to Emmanuel as they are to his once-scholars; they keep him grounded in his ‘why’ as he now focuses his deep pedagogical and DPPS-specific expertise on helping Democracy Prep to successfully expand into new regions.
“You need those reminders of: this is why you do the work,” said Emmanuel. “When you do the ‘expansion thing’ you want to say, ‘this motivates me’ so when you go to another place, you can hopefully, over time, with reflection, better execution and the right mindset, provide better opportunities for those kids too. You need those reminders.”