JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas State University's Pre-K center has a new milestone to celebrate this year.
The center hired its first African-American male lead teacher.
Elroy Brown Jr. is an Arkansas State University graduate and has been with the center for nearly a year.
He said he found out there was an African-American assistant teacher in the past, but he was told he was the first full-time lead teacher.
"I'm still trying to take it all in, but I'm definitely humble," Brown said. "It's an honor to be somewhat of a pioneer in a field that I think is overlooked. It's really important for children to see positive masculinity in the foundational years."
Brown said his childhood helped inspire him to go into the education field.
Brown grew up in Osceola and said people typically say Mississippi County has a bad reputation, but he sees a lot of potential and the need for guidance.
Brown also said his father played a big role and was a positive male influence in his life.
"Seeing my father and the way he handled his business, the things he instilled in me, I see now that things could've turned out differently if I didn't have that," Brown said. "What comes to mind is leading by example, being patient, kind, assertive, punctual. These are all things that they don't understand yet but by me doing those things, it provides the best possible learning environment for them."
Brown said he began his collegiate career pursuing physical education and learned there was a correlation between a lack of physical education and juvenile delinquency.
He also began researching whether or not low literacy rates and juvenile delinquency were connected the minority prison population and said he found they were.
"In classrooms, it's not that children don't want to be there or don't want to learn," Brown said. "It's easier when you have somebody you can relate to, that can talk to you on that level, who's been where they've been. I always put myself in a position where I can make a difference with kids. I just can't get away from them!"
Brown said he tells the parents of his students he aims to be the male figure that he would want in his children's lives in his absence and he encourages minority men to always remember their foundation and what got them to their high point.
"You've defeated so many odds," Brown said. "If you never get credit or notoriety from it just know that you do make a difference."
Brown is currently enrolled in a graduate program and is expected to graduate with a Master's Degree in Public Administration in August 2016.
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