Azikiwe Chandler ’14 (M.A.T.) has long had a three-part plan for his life. First, develop personally into a respectable man through travel and volunteering. Second, obtain a formal education and begin a family. Third, start a school that caters specifically to the needs and challenges of black males.
At 43, the well-traveled, globe-hopping Chandler has matured into a respectable, worldly man. He’s also obtained his formal education, having earned an architecture degree at Notre Dame and a master’s in teaching from the College. Married and now the father of a daughter, born in May, Chandler’s got his family life settled, too.
Soon it will be time to begin Phase Three: The School.
This part of the plan is in response to struggles Chandler has seen firsthand. Many of his high school classmates in Charleston, for example, have not found the kind of success he has. Some have been imprisoned, some killed. He attributes this in large part to a problem with the general education of black males – a problem that he wants to help solve.
His plan, in the long term, is to open a public charter school that will nurture young black men, allowing them to thrive. Chandler envisions a boarding school with a multicultural focus that offers parents and students an alternative to negative home or community environments, surrounds them with positive role models, loving discipline and high expectations, gives them healthy meals and encourages community service.
“People rise and fall according to expectations,” explains Chandler, who – with the support of a Jeremy Warren Vann Scholarship – last semester completed his clinical practice interning in a third-grade classroom at the public charter Charleston Development Academy. He found the experience incredibly rewarding and instructional, despite the literacy and poverty issues that complicate the school’s educational mission.
“What I love about this school is that failure is not an option,” says Chandler, who knows all too well that, when it comes to education, failure cannot be an option.
He’s seen what happens when schools fail their students. He knows what’s at stake. And you can count on him to do everything in his power to turn things around.
After all, so far, everything has gone according to plan.