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NHA Principal Promotes Equity Within North Carolina Charter School Sector

A passion for urban education and educational equity that is fueled by personal life experiences as an underprivileged student makes Wayne Muhammad an ideal advocate for educationally disadvantaged students. 

Muhammad, founding principal at a new National Heritage Academies (NHA) school in North Carolina, Summit Creek Academy, was invited to be part of the NC ACESS Equity Working Group. The group will inform, advise, and consult the NC ACCESS Program in the development of ideas, strategies, and initiatives to promote equity within the NC charter school sector. The group is composed of 19 charter school leaders from across the state of North Carolina and was assembled by the leaders of the NC ACCESS Program to include select charter leaders who are members of the NC ACCESS Program cohorts. 



“Our students, particularly our urban students, need to believe in something beyond the walls of poverty, violence, and family instability which may be immediate to them,” said Muhammad. “They need to know what is possible. My work now as a leader is fueled by all of that. I know that if we can work diligently and with passion and fervor to eliminate educational inequities and provide our students with the greatest needs greater and different opportunities, we can provide them hope and transform their outlook on life, consequently transforming their behaviors and academic performances.”
 
As someone who is extremely passionate about urban education and educational equity, Muhammad feels honored to be selected for this working group. There were certain educational opportunities, such as summer programs, college visits, and extracurricular activities that impacted Muhammad in such a powerful way. The idea of academic success and college matriculation is real for him. 

These opportunities were especially impactful for Muhammad considering that no one from either side of his family had ever been to college. “I had teachers that cared, teachers who believed in me, and teachers who saw more in me than I saw in myself,” he explained.
 
When in school himself, Muhammad had teachers become frustrated with him when they saw him passing by opportunities. What these teachers were unaware of were the tumultuous things happening in his home life. From elementary school through high school, Muhammad was experiencing poverty, violence, and unstable living arrangements.
 
“I saw education as a way out of all the family chaos, the community conditions, and the economic disadvantages,” he explained. “When I became an educator, I wanted to be an educator like the ones who impacted me as a student; one who believed in my students, one who cared, one who worked hard in a ‘wrap-around’ kind of way to help my students see beyond their current conditions to something greater and brighter.”
 
His hope is to influence the state of North Carolina and the NC Department of Public Instruction to look at new, better, and more meaningful and impactful ways to address educational inequities within charter schools in North Carolina. “Perhaps my personal experiences as an underprivileged student and my experiences serving urban and underprivileged students as a teacher and leader can bring new perspectives and fresh ideas to the state's initiative to eliminate educational inequity.”
 
Educators and school leaders are on the front lines of this educational work and, therefore, have a first-hand view of the sufferings of our children and families, and the inequities that exist within education. Inequities in education have many roots and branch off in many directions and areas as well, impacting families and students in many ways. Educators and school leaders often see the manifestations of these inequities in the behavior, social interactions, and academic performance of students. “We have a moral obligation to champion the cause of educational equity for the sake of the children,” said Muhammad. “No one can lead these initiatives like us nor offer the perspectives and context around the educational needs of the children and families like us.” ​​​​​​​