Literacy Lab’s Leading Men

The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship equips cohorts of young men to support Pre-Kindergarten classrooms as early literacy tutors. Leading Men serve as role models and change agents in both their schools and communities. The Literacy Lab provides Leading Men Fellows with intensive training, mentorship, and coaching, equipping the Fellows with the skills and support system needed to thrive both inside the classroom and out. LISC is proud to be a Literacy Lab supporter! 

LISC had the opportunity to meet with four young men in the Leading Men family – Justin, Rico, Javon, and Jean Carlos – to talk about their experiences with the program, and how it has made a difference in their lives.  Justin and Javon are current 2018-2019 Fellows. Rico is a 2018 alumnus who is serving a second year as an AmeriCorps Tutor in the classroom. Jean Carlos is a 2018 alumnus now employed through DCPS as a paraprofessional. Ivan Douglas, a Literacy Lab Program Manager in DC, serves as a mentor for these young men. He also spoke about the value of the Leading Men Fellowship, and Literacy Lab’s plans to expand to other cities throughout the US. 


Literacy Lab staff serve as mentors and role models for the Leading Men Fellows. All four of the young men spoke about how valuable it is to have a mentor in your corner rooting for you. They each found the program through mentors in their lives (e.g. Assistant Principals and Guidance Counselors), who encouraged them to apply. Javon said that he “always wanted to work in education” and the Leading Men Fellowship allows him to “do something with purpose.” 


In discussing the fellowship recruitment process, Javon and Jean Carlos emphasized that the interviewers asked more questions about their lives, and not just their experience. Literacy Lab wants to know more about you as a person – what you’re passionate about, what your interests are, and what draws you to the program. 


Even though Fellows spend much of their time tutoring in the classroom, Literacy Lab emphasizes out-of-classroom learning as well. At the beginning of the program, all Fellows attend a retreat to get to know each other more closely. Fellows also regularly have the opportunity to attend conferences and other leadership convenings throughout the country. Literacy Lab also provides fellows with financial coaching and other trainings, because they want to support the whole person. In Javon’s words, “The program forces all participants to grow and become better people.” 


Justin’s favorite part of being a Leading Men fellow is that he has a team and support system of men his age…also the kids! Rico enjoys being around and bonding with the kids, parents, teachers, and community as a whole. Because the kids look up to him, he has to set a good example. He also enjoys passing on his knowledge, love, and care to the younger generation, so that they can pass it on when they get older. Jean Carlos loves teaching and spreading the word about the Leading Men Fellowship program, as well as building brotherhood within the program. He also got the opportunity to speak on the news about his experience in the program.  


Javon would say, “Just do it!” Rico would ask the person if they’ve ever had a Black male teacher before, and to think about how this could impact the younger generation. He appreciates being able to show the children his passion and loyalty, and loves that he can be a positive influence in kids’ lives. Rico said he’s proud to be a role model for the younger generation, starting a cycle of lifting other up. Justin is concerned with the fact that society always tends to portray men of color negatively – this program allows you to be a role model for the younger generation. Javon said that this program teaches you to be a leader, and Rico chimed in by saying, “and that’s why we’re called Leading Men.” 

If you are interested in learning more about Literacy Lab and the Leading Men program, go here