Above: College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu and Renée Black with the Call Me MISTER cohort.
A fervent believer of the mantra “education changes lives,” Renée Black has generously devoted time and resources to establish scholarships for underserved students in the Lowcountry. She recently established the Marie LePrince Farmer Annual Scholarship at the College of Charleston in honor of her grandmother, Marie “Mimi” LePrince Farmer, an intelligent, curious and strong woman who was passionate about education.
After being introduced to Kevin Jordan ’21, a graduate of Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models), Black was determined to establish a scholarship for students in the program, carrying her grandmother’s passion forward with the scholarship. The Call Me MISTER Program supports male minority students majoring in education who plan to become teachers,
“I’m inspired when I meet remarkable people like Kevin who have chosen a career in education,” says Black.
“Teaching brings out the best in me,” says Jordan. “It gives me the chance to have an impact on students’ lives. The kids look up to us, so it’s important to pay attention to our actions in the classroom.”
Jordan worked as a student teacher at Northwoods Middle School in North Charleston, South Carolina. He was recently hired as a long-term substitute at the school, which gives him the opportunity to work with and impact more students on a weekly basis. He has also started volunteering as a basketball coach for the boys’ basketball team and hopes his experience will inspire others to become teachers.
“It’s the most rewarding career,” says the 8th grade teacher who attributes his success to the people he met at the College. “I’m grateful to everyone at the College including the amazing team of faculty in the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance who supported me in my journey. I’ve been fortunate to meet people like Renée, who is the most genuine person I’ve ever met. She’s a friend, a mentor and most of all she’s an ally.”
The scholarship is open to minority students majoring in teacher education, active participants in the Call Me MISTER program and in good academic standing. The first scholarship is expected to be awarded for the 2022-23 academic year.
“The scholarship is about investing in the person,” says Black. “It’s meeting the students’ needs so they can focus on their academics. It’s about asking what will help them to be successful whether it’s a suit to wear to an interview or that month’s rent.”
Jordan agrees. “Teacher loan debt is a major reason why there is such a high turnover rate for teachers in South Carolina. This scholarship will help students like me, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to or stay in college.”
A statewide program, Call Me MISTER aims to increase the pool of available teachers from broader and more diverse backgrounds. Student participants are largely selected from under-served, socio-economically disadvantaged and educationally at-risk communities.
“Since stepping into the role of director of the Call Me MISTER Program in 2018, I’ve seen the program and its students grow exponentially,” says Anthony James ’12 (M.A.T.), director of Minority Education and Outreach and Call Me MISTER.
“That growth is directly correlated with the philanthropic efforts of Renée Black and other benefactors who believe in our young men,” he adds. “Ms. Black shares my sentiments that representation in the classroom matters. Her contribution goes far beyond a dollar amount, fostering a socio-emotional impact on our members. The young men feel inspired and encouraged knowing someone believes in them to such an extent. That confidence is evident in their outstanding academic performance. The MISTERs are fantastic role models for their peers and the students they serve. I cannot thank Renée enough for her continued support and the heart she has for service and giving.”