When Chick-fil-A committed to give $100,000 to fund minority recruiting efforts at Augusta University, the campus community knew it would make an impact. That impact has been immediate. The College of Education has awarded the first two scholarships in the new UPLIFT Scholars Program.
Jason Brown and Deriutae Butler have been awarded scholarships as they pursue their career in elementary education.
Brown will graduate next fall and is currently doing his student observation in the classroom. He knows receiving one of the scholarships is a big deal.
“When I read the email, I was super excited,” said Brown. “It was a good feeling because I had a pretty tough year. Academically, personally and everything like that, it was a pretty tough year. This was validation for all I’ve done.”
The sentiment is echoed by Butler.
“This means a lot that they gave me a scholarship. I was actually working a part-time job. With school, and getting field experience, that was taking up a lot of my time and I wanted to focus more on school versus work,” said Butler.
Brown is a senior and Butler is a junior. Both have been through a lot to get this far in their academic careers.
Coming from Waynesboro, Georgia, Butler started his college years at Georgia Southern before transferring to Augusta University. His family has taken in several foster children over the years, and so to him, elementary education is an extension of home life.
“Growing up, I’ve been helping kids and teaching different kids, so I’ve advocated for kids in that way. So it was like school in working with kids in my family,” added Butler.
Brown is on track to graduate in December and is a first-generation college student. He initially came to Augusta for kinesiology before switching to education. He admits he didn’t think he’d make it through college and graduate, but he’s persevered — and the finish line is within sight.
“Even my sophomore year, I really didn’t see myself graduating. Not because I really didn’t believe in myself, I just didn’t see it happening. Now, coming towards the end and then having something like this happening — I get blessed with the scholarship — it’s making everything more real,” Brown said.
In the education field, men — and particularly Black men — are few and far between. Both students recognized this growing up and having only a few Black male teachers. Even now, in their college classes, there aren’t many.
Now that they are completing in-class observations in area elementary schools, they see firsthand the impact they can have on a young person’s life.
“I have so many students I want to reach. Whether they are students of color, or students in general, whether it’s males, I want to reach so many of them,” added Brown. “A lot of young kids, they see me like they’ll see their brother or their cousin or their dad and I can relate to them on that level. I have the hair, I have the earrings, so I’m still very relatable. I still want to be myself, I still want to be Jason, but I want to be as relatable as I can.”
“The kids actually love me. My teacher at Lake Forest Hills Elementary School actually said that. They only have a couple of male teachers, so they don’t always get a lot of males in the classroom,” Butler said.
Brown and Butler agree that scholarships like this could lead to more minority educators down the road.
“I hope that it will. Every single elementary school I go into and tell them my major, they are like, ‘We need more male educators; we need more Black male educators.’ I didn’t have anyone who looked like me my whole elementary career. I really hope it increases enrollment and gets people to think they can teach elementary school, or just teach, period,” Brown said.
“Honestly, I think it will influence people more. It will influence minorities more to become a teacher. You have to have a passion to want to work with kids. So once they feel the love from the kids and see all the opportunities, I think it will influence more teachers to come,” added Butler.