North Carolina Central University (NCCU) launches program to increase the numbers of Black male teachers, News and Observer reports. According to a recent U.S. Department of Education report, African-American men make up only about 2% of the nation’s public school educators.

The university’s School of Education’s new Marathon Teaching Institute was established as a pipeline for Black men to enter the field of education. Along with mentorship and training opportunities, students are given a $25,000 scholarship and are guaranteed a job as a teacher in their respective school district.

Quintin Murphy, chief recruiting and retention officer for the NCCU School of Education, said the Marathon Teaching Institute, which launched in August,  has been two years in the making.

“We want to make sure that we have that same strength towards preparing our teachers for their futures right here on this campus,” he said.

Roderick Heath, the director of the African American Male Initiative at NCCU’s  Men’s Achievement Center, says education should be prioritized in underserved communities.

“As I started digging into my research on non-cognitive behaviors (attitudes and skills not measured on tests), I looked at how important it was to have a male figure, or even a teacher, throughout your K to 12 journey,” Heath said. “A lot of these young men didn’t have one other than in sports.”

Chester Crowder, a senior elementary education major at N.C. Central University, said that he had never had a Black male teacher until he was in high school.

“That was my first time having an African American [teacher] that wasn’t a coach,” shared Crowder. He further explained that having a Black male teacher earlier on would have changed his academic trajectory. “I feel like everything would’ve been different. Especially the way I learned in class and the way I enjoyed education would’ve been different.”

Currently, Crowder is a weekly volunteer at the Lakewood Elementary School in Durham, NC for his last semester as a student teacher. Upon graduation, he will work there full time.

To qualify for entrance into the Marathon Teaching Institute, potential participants must be male elementary education majors with a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher. Additionally, they must commit to volunteering at a local elementary school during their junior and senior year and eventually work in the city of Durham.