By Apple Newsroom
For more than 100 years, teaching has run through Hillary-Rhys Richard’s family.
Growing up in Katy, Texas, Rhys, as he’s known to his friends, listened to his mother, Astrya Richard, tell stories of her ancestors — four generations of educators who saw teaching as a calling, and learning as a tool for change.
By the end of high school, Rhys had never had a Black male teacher, and that absence, along with his family’s deep connection to education, helped steer him to follow in their footsteps.
This week, Rhys, 18, will complete his freshman year remotely as part of the inaugural class of the African American Male Teacher Initiative at Huston-Tillotson University. The first-of-its-kind program was created in partnership with Apple as part of the company’s ongoing and deep commitment to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Apple’s multiyear partnership with Huston-Tillotson complements other engagements the company has established through its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, working alongside the HBCU community to develop curricula and provide new learning and workforce opportunities.
At Huston-Tillotson, Apple is providing scholarships for the program’s students, called Pre-Ed Scholars, as well as hardware, software, and professional-development courses for students and faculty.
“Every student should have the chance to be taught by someone who represents them,” Rhys wrote in his application essay to Huston-Tillotson. “In order to build strong children, we need strong male teachers to forge a path through being the example for students. The baton has to be passed for us to continue pushing forward. I stand ready to run my leg of the race.”
Currently, only 2 percent of all US teachers are Black men, something the program at Huston-Tillotson seeks to change. When Black students are taught by a Black teacher, they are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college.
Huston-Tillotson President Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette has witnessed the power of that relationship firsthand. Her son had a Black male teacher in the fifth grade, and it transformed his education.
“It just really did something magical for him,” says Dr. Burnette. “So this is personal for me because of my own experience raising an African American male. It’s my mission to be able to get these young Black men in classrooms, so they can pour into other vessels like themselves because they have shared experiences. And there’s nothing like being taught by someone who has a shared experience.”
It’s the reason Dr. Burnette prioritized the creation of the African American Male Teacher Initiative and sought out a partner in Apple.
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