Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

Holding my black expo pen to the whiteboard, I continued our lesson. We were in the middle of learning together. “Yes class, we infer from the text online- “ I halted. I held my expo pen still, and soon their pencils were still too. Something was different. Interrupted by sounds of urgent footsteps, a student of mine stood anxiously in the threshold. “What’s going on?” I said. He repeated, “I can’t come in unless I shake your hand.” In spite of anxiety, this student stopped to honor my classroom rule: no one enters without a handshake. I put my hand out. He grabbed it like it was his safety; he wouldn’t let go. His face crumbled. His eyes leaked. He hugged me, and whispered, “I don’t wanna go back.”
He ran to my classroom upon seeing the police on school campus, fearing they would take him to a mental institution again. They did. After I shook his hand, he walked calmly to the police car. He ran to me, not for an escape, but for a handshake. This student implicitly calls educators to integrate wellness frameworks into an approach to equitable education. He was soothed by his awareness of my classroom as a safe inclusive learning environment, a climate of mentorship, and my holistic approach to education. He did return about a week later, and the first thing he decided to do- report to my classroom for a handshake and recent assignments.
In pursuit of an M.Ed in Learning, Diversity, and Urban Studies from Vanderbilt, I seek formal training that can broaden my impact from individual classrooms to school systems at large. Through graduate study, I aspire to train educators to change the lives of students everywhere. My research interests generally regard identity development in K-12 education, teacher education, and inclusive learning environments. I am passionate about making schools into sites of positive transformation. We can start decreasing the jarring statistics with a good handshake.

Camille from California
Vanderbilt University