Reach all, teach all

Ryan Houston-Dial, Assistant Opinion Editor

An environment that isn’t reflective of your ethnicity and gender can be unsettling. As an African American male studying psychology, I questioned if the fit of the major was correct midway through my college career since I was typically the only African American male in my upper-division courses. I speculated that being one of few would be disheartening, but I thought I would push through. However, the fear I experienced most days didn’t compare to my mild expectations. I was fearful of the possibility of experiencing tokenism in my classes, such as having to speak on behalf of African American males when race, ethnicity and gender are discussed because I might’ve been the only representative present. I looked around and observed semblance of color, which was helpful, but that isn’t the same as seeing another African American male. The likelihood of seeing other African American males in graduate school studying psychology seemed low, and I thought I would be alone. I began to doubt my ability to obtain a doctorate and lead a change for African Americans battling mental illnesses.

Toward the end of my sophomore year, while browsing the web, I found an African American male professor in UTSA’s psychology department: Dr. Willie Hale. I sent him an email asking about his office hours, curious to know about his journey upon arriving at UTSA. Immediately after I met him, I felt relaxed because he was an African American male. We began to share our experiences, and in a lot of ways, they were very similar. He understood the discomfort of learning amidst an audience of others different from you. Finally, someone who resembled me in color and gender who was able to relate to the fear I felt while studying something I love. Most importantly, we examined the importance of the “Reach One, Teach One” saying. It promotes the idea that when you reach out to someone, you’re able to teach them life lessons through your own experiences. I left his office feeling inspired and confident that I was capable of continuing my studies. My mindset altered from focusing on being alone to noticing an opportunity to uplift the next African American male.

Although my initial fears almost prevented me from achieving my true dreams, I made a reversal just in time. As my academic career continues, I am motivated to obtain the highest form of knowledge to reach the next generation — a generation that possesses the next African American boys who want to venture out into areas of studies uncommon to our culture. People of color, I challenge you to seek an opportunity to be the next generation’s reflection of anticipated goals and aspirations. Don’t just reach one individual, but reach all who feel fear and doubt when they don’t see individuals that resemble them. Only reaching one is dismissive to those who struggle daily to find comfort in their identity while engaging in their studies. Reaching all unifies people of color, assuring them they are not alone and more than capable. The next generation is watching. Reach all, teach all and inspire.