by Maria Lloyd
Last night I had the pleasure of speaking with the youngest school principal I’ve ever met. Gemar Mills, 30, is a principal at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in crime-ridden Newark, NJ. Born and raised in the struggling city, he narrowly escaped a plethora of opportunities to destroy his life as a teenager by exerting his time and focus on athletics.
Today, he has achieved more at the age of 30 than some have achieved in their entire career. At the age of 22, he began his career as a high school math teacher and managed to acquire a 70 percent standardized test pass rate after only three years in the position. At the age of 25, he served as the Department Chairperson of Mathematics. In just one year, he brought the department from functioning at 17 percent to 26 percent. In two years, he was promoted to Vice Principal, where his achievements caught the attention of school administrators inside and outside of New Jersey. After one year of being a Vice Principal, the community urged him to interview for his current role, in which he successfully landed the job. In the past 18 months, he has acquired a slew of awards/accolades from many reputable organizations including: NBC, Newark Public School, CNN, etc. He’s currently authoring a book titled The Turnaround: 180 Days of Change, which will be a resource for educators to take advantage of his ideals and initiatives that have proven to be successful in his career.
When I asked him who he looks up to, he cited his mother — who had him at the age of 16 and raised him in the projects by herself — and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Both individuals had a choice, yet sacrificed their own dreams in order to build someone else’s dream,” Mills stated via email.
Excerpts from the conversation are transcribed below. To listen to the entire interview, click here.
On his ultimate goal:
My ultimate goal is to build a legacy. When I die that my name will live on. The things that I’ve done for my culture, for my people — it’ll live on. Decisions will be made based on things that I’ve done to empower my generation and generations to come.
On his advice to troubled peers:
It’s one real word that they have to really take heed to and that’s to be patient. I think patience is a virtue for all African American males and females. If they can be patient, then things will fall into place. Because oftentimes, poor decisions are triggered by one’s inability to wait. So, at 15 years-old, they want the money now. So, they’re willing to do anything that they have to in order to improve that status at that point and time.