FORT LAUDERDALE — On Thursday, Jan. 26, almost 200 students from Broward County-area high schools participated in an education workshop hosted by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).
The special, student-focused program was coordinated in conjunction with the NNPA’s new national education campaign that is supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant supports work designed to raise public awareness about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); the law, signed by President Obama in December 2015, reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and also works to address achievement gaps in K-12 education.
The Broward Teachers Union (BTU), the fifth largest teachers union in the United States, co-sponsored the event.
“The Broward Teachers Union gets it,” said Roosevelt McClary III, the secretary of the teachers union in Broward County, Fla. “They understand, because most of the members of the Broward Teachers Union are teachers, who are also parents. So, it helped in making an unusual, but quick, decision to support the National Newspapers Publishers Association Mid-Winter Conference.”
At 29, McClary is not only the first African-American to be elected as Secretary of the Broward Teachers Union, he’s also the youngest.
McClary opened up about his personal life to help motivate the students in attendance during the workshop. When a routine health screening returned with negative results, a physician recommended that his mother terminate the pregnancy, a decision that would have ended his life before he was even born. Fortunately, McClary said, his mother ignored the advice and he was born without any physical or mental limitations. He went on to college and graduated from Full Sail University.
The Broward County native said that he also understands the needs of students in urban communities, because he grew up attending public schools on the rough eastside of Fort Lauderdale.
When he was asked what advice he would give to kids growing up on the eastside of Fort Lauderdale, who are trying to stay out of trouble now, he said, “Remember your associations,” and you will only “go as far as your top 10 friends.”
McClary is on a mission to strengthen relationships between paraprofessionals and teachers. He served as an educational support professional for six years, an experience that helps him to identify with the unique challenges facing paraprofessionals, inside and outside of the classroom.
The young secretary is very adamant in serving the members of the Broward Teachers Union. He said that, as he continues to address the needs of the union members, leading by example, he thinks that the teachers will genuinely give back their time to help find solutions so that BTU can have a stronger voice and better relationships with teachers, parents, and the school district.
McClary pointed out that he is very intentional about setting goals, adding that he approaches each one optimistically. The young union secretary made it clear that one of his long-term goals is to be elected the first and youngest African-American U.S. senator to represent the state of Florida.
“I didn’t tell anyone in my family yet,” said McClary. “I didn’t tell anyone.”
His advice to students striving to succeed is to find 1,000 ways to keep going and achieve your goals, instead of getting lost in the ways that you can fail.
“Anything can happen,” said McClary. “It all depends on your mindset.”