We had the good fortune of connecting with Dedrick Sims and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dedrick, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
“What one man can do, so can another” is a quote that has always resonated with me. It reminds me that no matter an individual’s level of success, we all have the ability to achieve the same level of success. Sometimes we look at individuals or accomplishments that we admire and think they must have some special powers that we don’t. The truth is that we can reach those same levels of success if we put in the hard work to do so. We have to believe that we can.Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started in education as a substitute teacher when I completed my military service as an Army officer. Before my military service, while in college, I tutored upperclassmen in a variety of subjects. Teaching was something that always came naturally to me. I really enjoyed seeing people “get it.” After completing my military service, I moved to Mobile, Alabama, to start my graduate program. While in school, I started teaching Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, and Chemistry at Williamson High School. I served students in the classroom for seven years before taking a one-year hiatus to work for Aventis Pharmaceuticals in some of Alabama’s rural parts. After becoming disgusted with how some of the physicians were taking advantage of the lack of education and access to quality healthcare of people of color in those rural areas, I vowed that I would go back to the education field and work relentlessly to educate young people of color on how they learn, how to access information, and how to think critically and reflectively about socio-political issues in their communities. I eventually moved into roles that carried more responsibility (administrative) and gave me opportunities for more significant impact with students and their families and my fellow educators. At their request, I started to work with other educators on increasing their capacity to work with students of color, particularly young men and boys of color. So much so that I started my first consulting group, Zen Educational Consulting, to work with other schools and their staff on equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives. During this time, I wrote my first two books, Hardwired by Nature: What We as Educators Underestimate About Our Minority Students and The Dedrick Sims Reader. Our Hardwired by Nature: School/Program Design Through an Equity Lens is foundationally based on that book. Over the years, I have expanded the content and created seven comprehensive workshops that focus on equity and inclusion. We currently conduct these workshops around the country. We have impacted thousands of educators and other professionals working with students of color, emphasizing young men and boys of color. Eventually, my frustration with the lack of urgency and sometimes indifferent efforts of traditional education towards the improvement of education access and outcomes for students of color led me to move to Denver and start my own charter school for young men. The school, the Sims-Fayola International Academy, was approved in the fall of 2011 and opened in 2012 with 125 young men. Unfortunately, the school closed in 2015 due to several complex issues. However, because of the success and challenges of the Sims-Fayola International Academy effort, I have been able to assist other aspiring charter groups around the county to navigate the charter school development process as well as leaders of traditional schools in restructuring the learning experiences they were providing for the students they served, to include one in my hometown of Pine Bluff, AR and a more recent one in rural Louisiana. This now makes up the School Support pillar of the Sims-Fayola Foundation. We are currently working on other charter school projects in Michigan and Texas. I had the unfortunate experience of having a school I started having to close. That was heart-wrenching to watch because of how it impacted the young men, families, and teachers who believed in our mission. I was told long ago by a very wise mentor that “when you shoot for big goals like you have Dedrick, you will undoubtedly experience failures and shortfalls. But with big goals come big risks. You have to learn to push through the setbacks and challenges and stay true to your moral compass.” That turned out to be very accurate. The school closure is just one of the biggest challenges I’ve had. Still, there have definitely been many smaller ones that have really tested my resolve to ensure equitable learning experiences and access to students of color, particularly young men and boys of color.If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d take them for a weekend in the Rocky Mountains! A sample itinerary would be: 1. Snowshoeing in Breckenridge 2. Drive to Vail for lunch at Sweet Basil 3. Visit the Hot Springs in Idaho Springs 4. Lunch at Beau Joe’s Pizza in Idaho Springs 5. A visit to Red Rocks for the view and pictures.Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to all of the hardworking team at the Sims-Fayola Foundation and the young men and boys of color that we work with.
These are my photos taken with my phone by my wife