My name is Deion Jamison and I am a Summer Fellow at Coastal Community Foundation. Here at CCF, I am a member of the Grantmaking and Community Leadership team under the supervision of Edie Blakeslee. In my role, I have had the opportunity to do research related to funding, assist with coordinating workforce development grants, and support other members of the team. When I am not in the office, I am home reading and making preparations for the upcoming school year. No, I am not a college student, but instead, an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher.
Since I was nine or ten years old, I knew that I always wanted to be a teacher. I was always prepared to explain a concept to my peers who didn’t get it right away, or demonstrate how to solve a problem on the chalk board. I often would take my books home from school and create worksheets to pass out to my imaginary class. As I got older, I drifted away from this dream. I began my coursework in Sociology & Community Studies at Clemson University where I started to learn more about marginalized and historically disadvantaged groups and communities, and disparities among race and class. I would often leave class feeling hopeless, thinking that there was no way to solve the social problems in this country. After a conversation with my advisor, I declared a minor in education and suddenly, it clicked; education is a key way we can tackle inequity.
I grew up in rural Orangeburg County, SC located along the I-95 corridor. The infamous term coined, “The Corridor of Shame.” describes the subpar quality of education provided to children in this county and the adjacent ones. Determined to change this perception, I joined Teach For America, which seamlessly combined my interests of education and equity. Teach For America is a national nonprofit organization that recruits outstanding college students to serve as teachers for a two year commitment in low-income schools across the country. I was accepted into the corps my junior year of college and officially began teaching Middle School English Language Arts in August 2017.
Teach For America not only prepares corps members to be leaders inside the classroom, but also in an array of sectors. The belief is that educational inequity can only end if multiple industries and sectors are working together to solve the issue. The ultimate goal is to provide corps members with leadership skills to affect systems. This is where the LeadSC fellowship was born, and how I got connected to the Coastal Community Foundation.
Before working at the Coastal Community Foundation, I had little knowledge of what foundations do and how they work. I had heard of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, being a 2013 recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship. It was my assumption that foundations “hand out money to those who need it,” but I am learning that the work foundations do is more intentional than giving out dollars during my time here at CCF.
Working at CCF has been an amazing learning experience. Perhaps the most exciting moment thus far was meeting Bernie Mazyck, the President and CEO of the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development. We investigated the legislation behind the Opportunity Zones which are designed to help historically impoverished areas thrive. In our conversation, it was affirmed that there are many factors contributing to educational inequity and working at CCF is one of the ways I am a part of systems change that will one day, create equitable education.
Long term, I believe I will remain in the classroom (maybe in a high school setting so I can check-in with my first group of students). I think the work that I’ve done here at CCF has broadened my perspective on equity issues within the lowcountry of South Carolina that will help me in my career. I believe that I am walking away with a perspective that many educators do not have that will benefit my students, the school, and the community at large.