Sometimes you need someone to lift you up, hold you accountable and help you feel empowered. There are times you need a safe place to share ideas, a place to express your hopes and fears. You need a brotherhood.

That’s what Anthony James ’12 (M.A.T.) aims to achieve through the Call Me MISTER program, which academically and financially supports male minority students who choose to major in education. James, who took the helm of the program last fall as the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance‘s director of minority education and outreach, wants to build the program up to include both academic support and social and emotional support for the students who participate.

Kory Roberts with students. (Photos by Heather Moran)

“I think it is very important for our guys to get out there and meet different types of people, but it’s also important to connect with other minorities on campus who may have had a similar experience,” says James.

RELATED: Learn more about Director of Minority Education and Outreach Anthony James.

And that sense of belonging matters because, as minority male teachers, these education majors aspire to someday influence and uplift their own students, especially those who look like them.

Senior Kory Roberts, an elementary education major and a member of Call Me MISTER, says the program has given him a variety of opportunities to grow and develop as an educator and leader, preparing him to teach the type of students he wants to serve.

“The program encourages me to network with a cohort of members that not only look like me, but also share a common goal in striving to impact the classroom,” says Roberts, who spent the spring 2019 semester student teaching at Stiles Point Elementary School on James Island, where he taught fourth grade reading, writing and social studies. “Call Me MISTER also helps me connect to the communities I want to teach in by having us participate in service projects and supporting several local Title I [high poverty] schools.”

Outreach and community service projects both on and off campus are key, says James. It’s important, he says, that his students experience the interconnected elements of education and community well before they graduate.

Under the leadership of Call Me MISTER cohort president Darius Evans, the MISTERs have completed a number of ambitious initiatives this school year, including co-sponsoring a book drive and literacy day with the CofC student group Luminescent Community Outreach Organization at Memminger Elementary School; attending an Equity in Education conference in Columbia, South Carolina; and participating in a build with Habitat for Humanity. The group recently helped start a new club on campus called Minorities in Education with the objective of including future female educators as well as more minority male students in education who aren’t in the MISTER program. And, thanks to a new grant, the Call Me MISTER program is gearing up to do a weekly read-aloud program at Memminger Elementary in the fall.

Kory Roberts speaks to students.

The 2019–20 academic year will be a big one for the program because it will welcome seven freshmen, its largest cohort ever. It’s an important milestone, says Evans, because it means further elevating the visibility of minority students pursuing careers in education.

RELATED: Find out how two of next year’s Call Me MISTER members found themselves on The Ellen Show.

“We will have seven more like-minded individuals who want to change the face of education,” he says. “We get seven more men willing to be an example of how to succeed. These new members will give us more manpower, as well. This will only help us have a stronger presence on campus.”

Another benefit: They can do more for the community.

“I have been a part of this cohort since freshman year and know that having so many more guys come in will greatly help with the amount of outreach we can partake in on and off campus,” says Evans, a junior majoring in elementary education. “I cannot stress enough how much more work will be done in the future now.”

All that outreach, studying, advocacy and teamwork, says Roberts, makes each member of the MISTER program stronger.

“I can definitely say, without the Call Me MISTER program I would not be the individual I am today,” says Roberts, noting that, with a father who is a high school principal and a mother who is an elementary school guidance counselor, he has a love of education in his blood. “This program has provided me with financial assistance, networking opportunities, community involvement and the presence of mind to understand the uniqueness I bring to my profession and community.”

That’s the power of a brotherhood.