Critical Reflection of Summer SELI Fellowship with E-SToPP by Corey Miles

Corey Milescorey


Final Critical Reflection

I grew up in the South to a single teenage mother who raised four kids on a minimum

wage job. I am the first/only person in my family to go to college, let alone receive a college

degree. When I engage in work for education equity for disadvantaged students, it is more than

a professional endeavor, but about serving people I identify with. It also allows me to think

through who I am, but more importantly who I can and should be. I spent my summer working

with Eradication the School-to- Prison Pipeline Foundation, Inc in Miami, Florida. My internship

consisted of different interconnected parts that were all aimed at advancing education for

distressed, underprivileged, and disenfranchised youth and their families and communities (as

stated in my work plan).

Throughout the summer I participated weekly in the Positive Peer Leadership Mentoring

program. This allowed me to go into Turner Guilford Correctional Facility & Miami Dade

Juvenile Detention Center. I had the opportunity to mentor and learn from students about their

conceptualization of education equity. This is monumental because typically students who

reside in juvenile justice facilities are not brought to the table to engage in conversations

centered on education equity. My summer also consisted of meeting an array of community

leaders who work on the ground to give back to their communities. Gayle Flowers, a local

pastor in Liberty City, stood out the most because of her organic passion to serve.

I also had the privilege to develop a curriculum map for E-SToPP’s freedom school. This

is personally important to me because I serve as an exemplar that the educational system can

change the lives of poor students of color for the better. However, that may be true to a degree

because I am financially stable because of the educational system, but that is only part of the

story. Through my educational experience I continuously feel something is missing because I

don’t see myself in the curriculum. The educational system doesn’t for the most part teach, but

indoctrinates students into a particular culture (middle-class white American). Students are

essentially assessed by the manner in which they appropriate that culture. Developing the

curriculum map allowed me to research and access what it is that students of color need that

they are not already receiving. For me liberation should be the goal of the curriculum and it was

great constructing an educational experience centered on giving students the tools to be their

own hero.

Over the summer I also had the opportunity to study and develop an infographic on

school discipline in Liberty City, attend a Bidder’s Conference to get a feel of grant writing, and

an array of other personal and professional enriching activities. The biggest lesson that I

learned is, it’s simple but very true, you much have passion if you are going to do education

equity work successfully. This road is long and hard as hell at times. Money and other frivolous

things can’t sustain this type of work. An example is going to the detention centers. There are

so many loops and things that can occur that prevents you from seeing the students and/or the

number of students you can see at a time. When you do see them they may not be interested

in participating or value your presence. But, passion is going to make you jump through those

hoops again the next day and continue the process of developing rapport with these students.

Since you don’t see immediate change it becomes difficult to negotiate if you are really making

a change. But, passion will keep you there for the long haul. These students have been

socialized not to value their own greatest and it becomes our duty to believe in them so much

they can’t help but to want better for their self.

The biggest challenge I see for E-SToPP is that we want to do what not a lot of others

will. We want to take a segment of the population that most of the country ignores and doesn’t

even know about and give them a fighting chance at a good life. When it comes to fund

allocation it is easier to make a case to invest in these kids who are trying, but they are in

underfunded schools. It becomes harder convince stake holders to invest resources, love, and

passion into students with felonies or other comparable stigmas. Structurally it becomes

complicated when it comes to securing funding, obtaining insurance, and other logistics that go

into sustaining a non-profit that serves youth that reside in juvenile justice facilities.

I feel my reflection is more personal and affective than it is professionally goal-oriented.

Part of that is intentional, but the other part is that what I took the most from my experience is

inspiration. Some scholars have argued that the most under-utilized human and natural

resource is inspiration. As I go back to finish working my doctoral work sitting on the

educational ivory tower I will go with a newfound respect for individuals who are on the

ground. When become a faculty member at a university I don’t want to limit my fight for

education equity to teaching it in class and publishing in journals. I am currently trying to

negotiate with myself how to move forward with my work in educational equity. It is a

conversation about what I can give. I feel similar to words spoken by the prominent rapper

Wale, “I am just a man, May not change the world. But let me inspire someone who can”.