The title of this publishing reveals something that many people won't like - that I left Teach for America. For many people this means that I quit a 2 year commitment to a great organization. For others this means that I "walked out" of the classroom on helpless children in need.
I considered many of these people and their situations when I made my decision to leave Teach for America. It was October 7th (only 2 months into my commitment) when I packed up my things and never looked back at that classroom in KIPP College Prep in D.C. KIPP is one of the best schools for teachers and students. Students had all the love and support they needed. Teachers had the best training, structure, leadership, resources, and pay.
What could be better? I was 21 years old and fresh out of college making an amazing salary at an amazing school, with amazing students, being supported by an amazing organization in Teach for America.
But everyday I went into the classroom with something on my mind that just wouldn't leave. Now I didn't go off to Wall Street or to any other job to make more money, I actually took a pay cut. And I didn't "give up" on working with kids, I actually took an opportunity to work with some of the most "troubled" youth in Washington, D.C.
I wanted to make a greater impact in my own community with the guys who I loved the most. And they weren't just any guys. They were the guys who told me to come to Georgetown and play football with them, the ones who taught me the ropes at that school.
They were my best friends, college roommates, teammates, and now business partners.
These guys are Darius Baxter and Daniel Wright, and together we created GOODPartners LLC and GOODProjects 501(c)(3). These two organizations started organically in our college home in Georgetown on a white board. With a little (a lot) help from our network we scaled quickly. Now everyone has their doubts about starting their own company. I believe the most common thought is "how the hell am I going to make money". We didn't know. We just had big ideas, big dreams, and a big dedication to our community.
Coming from the very community that I desired to empower, I didn't have many resources myself. Yes I went to Georgetown, but after graduation there was no more student housing or refund checks. I was back where I started and those big ideas and dreams couldn't put food on the table. Despite being kicked out of our college home, we kept the movement going and joined Georgetown's McDonough School of Business Hoyas Start-Up Incubator Program. Here we were able to develop our business model day in and day out all while I slept in my car and showered in the gym on campus.
I knew then, something had to happen. I couldn't live the life I lived before Georgetown.
I had already had an offer from Teach for America and KIPP on the table. So I decided that I would take that offer. I knew it aligned with my passions, and it could've possibly been very beneficial for GOODPartners to have that experience in the classroom.
While I went to Teach for America Institute all summer, my partners finished out the summer Incubator and executed one of our first white board ideas, GOODCamp.
Missing the camp hurt everyday. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror. I couldn't believe I was missing out on our biggest creation. But my partners did an amazing job and the camp was a success. Not only did they succeed with GOODCamp, but they also won 1st place in the Incubator pitch competition at Georgetown. Things were really looking good for us. But in my eyes, I didn't do anything. So the hurt continued.
I came back to D.C. and started at KIPP in August. Now GOODCamp was over and we were looking for new things to do. I thought I would be able to manage teaching and working with GOODPartners/GOODProjects. That was the biggest lie I ever told myself. If you have taught before, you know that there isn't enough time in the day to think, let alone run a company alongside the profession. So I was stuck. The company was my baby, that we nurtured together. I believed in it so much that I thought about quitting and living in my car again. But I knew nobody would want to see me like that again, including myself.
Until one day a proposal came across our desk for the "Credible Messenger Initiative". This RFP was for organizations who had been doing work in Washington D.C. for years with youth who were formally incarcerated. They were only taking 6 applicants and apparently there were dozens of people doing this work with youth in D.C. But with us being the dreamers that we are, we sent in our bid, and we got it.
Now, we could have a solid foundation behind our non-profit GOODProjects and continue our work without stressing about finances. It was perfect. We got to work with the D.C. government and impact the lives of youth who were the MOST at-risk. We would be managing ourselves and saving lives in our community. This was our dream, but there was one problem. I would have to quit at KIPP. Well, there were 2 problems, I would have to quit KIPP and Teach for America. Talk about stressing.
I thought long and hard. I knew everyone would hate me for quitting, but I knew what I wanted, and I knew that it was my calling.
See I didn't do Teach for America for the network or for the opportunity. I didn't do it to meet people or be apart of a great organization. I didn't do it to learn how to be a great teacher or even to be teacher at all. I did Teach for America so I could empower the kids my community. I did Teach for America to be a role model for the kids who were just like me. See, there are thousands of Troye Bullock's around the country and in Washington D.C. that didn't have the opportunities that I had. The difference is, I used football to get out of the hood. Everyone doesn't have that opportunity.
I did Teach for America to be a messenger for the kids in my community, providing my acquired knowledge so that they could empower themselves and be self-sufficient.
I quit Teach for America, for all the same reasons I joined. I knew in that classroom, I couldn't do these things on the scale that I wanted too. Yes, I could've worked my way up the ladder in the educational world. But my people need help now, and we need it on a large scale. I knew GOODPartners was the solution, and if it wasn't I would die trying to make it the solution. I quit Teach for America to be the messenger, the role model, and funny enough, the teacher to my kids in my community on my own terms.
I didn't write this to explain myself. I didn't write this for people to feel bad or good about what I did. I wrote this as a statement to all of the people with the shared vision to empower the community they came from. It isn't about staying on track or connecting with people that can help you do this work. Its about taking risks and taking opportunities. That is what is going to save our communities and that is what they deserve.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X didn't do any program to start their movement, they weren't even on the same page with each other. They choose their own path to make large scale impact. I am not saying I am either one of those great men. But I am taking a shot at starting a movement to change the way our communities operate, just as they did. No one can do that under structured control.
At the end of the day you are doing this work for you and your people, don't let anyone hold you back. Not even those people who have the same mission, because nobody has experiential knowledge of their community like you do. Nobody has the passion you do when walking down the streets you once suffered on, trying to ensure no one else feels the same pain. Dont let them hold you back no matter what they say. Be you, do you, stay inspired, and stay loyal.
In the fight,
(attached to this publishing is a video of me at Teach for Americas 25th Anniversary Summit speaking on the reasons why I joined the program. So happens to be the same reason I resigned. Check the title. No love lost)