North Texas Daily

commUN rooTs: Middle school educator inspires students through teaching, nonprofit

commUN rooTs: Middle school educator inspires students through teaching, nonprofit

commUN rooTs: Middle school educator inspires students through teaching, nonprofit
February 21
12:00 2020

This story is part of the Daily’s partnership with NABJ, known as commUN rooTs. Cynde Robinson wrote this piece as a contribution.

Patrick Powers, a 26-year-old UNT alumnus and teacher at Bettye Meyers Middle School, is part of the two percent of teachers in the U.S. who are African-American men and has a passion for helping the future generation of students. He hopes to accomplish this inside and outside the classroom through his different approaches to teaching and his nonprofit called the Lost Generation.

His impact did not start at Bettye Meyers, nor was education Powers’ first choice. His purpose became clear, he said, after he faced adversity for the first time during his senior year of high school in 2011.

It was a crisp October day when Powers bumped into his cousin at the local fair in Waco. During their conversation, a man came up from behind and struck Powers’ face. His lip was split open and a tooth shifted in his mouth. Blood gushed from his lips as Powers looked at him shocked and confused. When his mother found out about the incident, she immediately rushed him to the hospital.

“I’ll never forget the tight grip [from] my mother as she grasped my hand while her body [shook] looking at her only child suffering,” Powers said.

When Powers returned to school, he went to different classrooms and gave speeches regarding the situation. He discussed why it is important to make the right decisions, and not let factors impact your potential outcome, while dressed in a suit with a bandage covering his lip. This was the first time Powers saw the influence someone could have by standing in front of a classroom, addressing students about a cause and was inspired to become an educator.

“I had always felt I had a unique set of skills, the ability to think for myself, be creative and present myself accordingly to different situations, but it never dawned on me to apply these skills as a teacher,” Powers said. “My experience is pretty rare for a senior in high school, or anyone for that matter, but getting the chance to connect with students while I enlightened their mindset… That’s something a teacher does every day.”

After high school graduation, Powers began community college and worked as a mentor with Communities in Schools, a program that helps students who face challenges, build relationships with mentors and help guide them to stay in school. Two years later, after working with different elementary and middle schools, Powers had the opportunity to go back to his former high school and mentor 50 at-risk students as a success coach.

After transferring to UNT in 2014, Powers joined the NAACP as their education chair and tried to join an organization, Collegiate 100, where African-American men could promote success in their community. While the UNT chapter never got off the ground, this inspired Powers to help students in his own community back home. Once Powers got the green light to speak at his former elementary school along with other college students, he recruited UNT students and drove them to J. H. Hines Elementary School later that week for an event called Empowering the Youth. This event became the start of the Lost Generation.

By the spring semester, Powers had recruited enough students to create an official UNT organization to inspire and empower future generations of kids by providing students with different types of learning, encouragement and life skills so they can be the best version of themselves.

“I wanted to invite people who had walked the same streets or pathways as these kids that made something of themselves and overcome different obstacles to be successful,” Powers said.

The Lost Generation’s mission is to encourage students ranging from elementary school to high school through collegiate mentors, enlightening events and interactive clubs. Their goal is to bring class, elegance and dignity to the classroom, so students can have an eagerness to learn and overcome obstacles hindering their success. Some programs and events include an anti-bullying seminar, a mental-illness seminar and Empowering the Youth. In one year, the Lost Generation helped over 5,000 students across Texas, according to their official website.

Tacoby Bennet, a 25-year-old team leader of warehouse operations at Medical Warehouse, was one of the first members of the organization. Powers met Bennet in spring 2015 when the two attempted to join the Collegiate 100.

“I was disappointed that the Collegiate 100 never pulled through,” Bennet said. “But I think this helped Patrick develop the Lost Generation because he talked about starting his own organization. We’ve been like brothers ever since.”

Bennet said he believes Powers did a great thing creating the organization and will have memories that will last a lifetime.
“I loved seeing how happy we made the kids, and they would be so happy to see us,” Bennet said. “Kids really remember everybody from the pep rallies we did and still want everybody to come back and do it again.”

Marketing senior Destyni Clark joined as a freshman in spring 2017. She said it inspired her to become the leader she is today.

“This organization made me want to do more and become better with myself, so I could help the youth and make the world a better place for everyone,” Clark said.

After Powers graduated, he didn’t want the Lost Generation to stop at UNT. On Feb. 22, 2018, The Lost Generation became an official 501 © (3) nonprofit association. Powers hopes to bring the nonprofit to other universities in Texas.
“I knew there had to be other students lacking motivation who were on the verge of dropping out,” Powers said. “We had to keep going. We’ve been in several talks with different representatives from those universities, both college students, college professors and college administrative workers. And we can readily meet the needs of the schools in those areas quickly, sooner rather than later.”
Powers became an English teacher at Bettye Myers Middle School after he graduated. His teaching methods are far from traditional, he said, and he offers students different ways of understanding the curriculum. One of the ways he does that is with music and engagement. He’s made different songs that allow students to better understand how to comprehend reading material. One song he made was a parody of the rap song “Rake it Up” and used it to help students break down stories and poems. Powers has also taken a multitude of hip-hop songs to help uncover literary devices and the meaning within the lyrics through critical analysis.
“When they come to a test, a story, not just in my class but all of their classes, they have [the tools to succeed],” Powers said. “They’re going to ‘read it up, break it down, right up, sum it up,’ and then obviously [saying] it in a probably profound voice does help the engagement level as well.”
Powers also uses different college students’ stories to build up the type of empathy and understanding of different situations and circumstances that the students themselves either cannot identify with, or have not actually experienced yet.
“They’re learning to realize the power of their own words, and the power of learning from not just their experiences, but the experiences of others,” Powers said. “And I think that the results are going to be so profoundly come-of-age in high school and in college and beyond. And I think they’re really ahead of the curve as far as adapting to the environment and being their best selves.”
In his first year of teaching, Powers’ student’s test scores increased. He had the highest results at the school, and his students improved individually as well as a group. He’s also won Most Influential Teacher and Teacher of the Month by the Lake Cities Chamber of Commerce and will soon have his teachings published.
Jianna Patton, 13, is one of Powers’ students and said he is not like most teachers she’s had before.
“The hype and energy he brings off, not just as a teacher but as a life figure, motivates me to do better in my schoolwork,” Patton said. “He actually inspired me to present my poem about my parents’ divorce. I think that’s where I definitely saw a bit of myself, just embraced out into the crowd, and I felt like I was inspired by people from his inspiration in me.”
Patton said she learns different life lessons in Powers’ class, which feels more like a “life class” than an English, language arts and reading class. The biggest lesson she has taken away, she said, is to keep moving forward.
Motivating his students doesn’t stop in his classroom, as he motivates them on the court as well. Powers is the head coach for the Betteye Myers boys basketball A-team and helps coach the boys’ football and track team.
“It means a lot to know they haven’t even reached their full growth as individuals yet,” Powers said. “But for them having each other’s backs and understanding what it takes to be a basketball player and a student, I really do think they change during this time.”
James Wilburn, an eighth-grade science teacher and coach, works alongside Powers weekly. He met Powers before he started working at Bettye Meyers and said they made a connection instantly.
“I remember the day of his interview,” Wilburn said. “He came in and something stood out about him, as far as a man of character for one as well as a leader.”
Wilburn has seen closely the impact Powers has made on these students on and off the court by building individual relationships with each student like a fatherly figure.
“He’s always giving the students and athletes advice on things, how they can navigate middle school, high school and as well as their career choices,” Wilburn said. “Those same relationships he’s made here, he continues them when they move on to high school and beyond, and it’s made a positive impact here.”
Tyran Chappel, 13, believes Powers encourages him to be the best he can be.
“He pushes us to the limits, checks our grades and makes sure we are on top of everything,” Chappel said. “He’s like another father figure in our life.”
While working as a full-time teacher and coach, Powers is earning his master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. The Denton Public School Foundation gave him a scholarship to assist with tuition costs. Powers hopes to finish his master’s degree and become a principal, motivational speaker and published author in the near future.
“I had no idea that my life was going to be like this in high school,” Powers said. “I didn’t think I was going to be a teacher, a coach or founder of a nonprofit. I didn’t even want to be a teacher. I just knew I wanted to help kids in the future. I don’t plan on stopping now. It’s only up from here.”
Featured Image: Patrick Powers, 26, teaches his 10 a.m. English class at Bettye Myers Middle School. Powers uses prominent songs to connect with students and poetry. Image by Mia Estrada

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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