HOUSTON – The assistant principal at Hicks Elementary in Alief Independent School District is on a crusade to inspire and empower students, helping them to aim high not only through words but action, by creating a culture for success in and out of school.
Do you expect to live past your 21st birthday? If so, what will you be doing? That’s the question Kendrick Thomas is asking a group of 3rd and 4th grade boys.
“These young men are vulnerable and they are looking for someone to lead them. You could let them go to the streets or you can step in,” Thomas said.
Seven years ago, Thomas created the “Gentleman Represent Education and Transition Boys Club” or GREAT, as a way to connect with, motivate and support underprivileged students. They meet every Thursday morning for 45 minutes.
“Turning around the culture of what kids see themselves as. I think about my upbringing of no dad in the house ... mom going to jail. These are a lot of their truths,” Thomas said.
His mission: Address and help them overcome the disparities and inequities they face, in part, by opening their eyes and exposing the students to the world around them to things they might otherwise not get the chance to experience.
“A lot of the times the kids I’m working with haven’t left Alief. We’re thinking about how we can give these kids the background to equal the playing field. We do a baseball game every year. We also do a play downtown. It’s the experience to say, I was there,” Thomas said.
To spread his message in hopes of engaging the community, Thomas must wear many hats. He’s an educator, public speaker, a certified life coach, podcaster, radio show host and mentor.
“He is a great motivator,” said Danielle Carter.
Once a college dropout, Carter, a Kindergarten teacher at Hicks, said she will never forget how much Thomas encouraged her on her journey toward earning a Master’s degree while studying to be a certified teacher. He recently had Carter, who grew up in Third Ward and graduated from Jack Yates High School, as a guest on one of his podcasts.
“He just wanted people to hear the story ... to know about the journey. You don’t have to be what society says you have to be. You can be who you want to be,” Carter said.
Thomas said it’s critical for students to know that learning a trade is just as important as getting a four-year college degree. For that resonate, it has to be about more than just words.
“So then how do you set kids up for that? by reach out to the community members that have already been in those positions and bringing those community members in to talk about their experiences, “Thomas said.
Shaping and guiding them on a path toward a brighter future.
If you’d like to learn more about Kendrick Thomas, check out his website: ktteev.com