LAFAYETTE – The presence of African-American leadership at Greater Lafayette’s largest junior high school took a dramatic turn upward this past school year with hiring of Dewayne Moffitt as school success coordinator and Dushaun Goings as a school counselor.
Moffitt is the former executive director of the Hanna Community Center and a 1985 graduate of Lafayette Jefferson High School. He spent 7 ½ years in the U.S. Army before returning to Lafayette. Along with his work at Tecumseh, he also serves as the staff advisor for the African American Leaders of Tomorrow at Jeff.
Moffitt talked with OurTown.com during the school year about his role and the significance of his position at Tecumseh.
What are you hoping to achieve with the new position of school success coordinator?
“We try to mentor these kids and help them stay motivated in school. We try to identify resources in the community for them. We want to help them make their school experience a positive one. I want to help the administration with managing the behaviors and discipline issues. I try to know the kids and help teachers in how to deal with some of them, in light of some of the issues they have.”
How do you believe being from Lafayette will help you related to the students?
“I’m from here and I went to school here. I know some of the history of the building, some of the staff that’s still here. More importantly, I know a lot of the families here. I know the environment these kids are from. I hope that helps in me relating to them and the community. I hope that’s a big us for us.”
Because of some of the challenges these kids face, a lot of them have not participated in extracurricular activities. How important do you see that as part of their overall education and school experience?
“I’m coaching eighth grade football. It’s fun. Some of these kids haven’t played sports at all for various reasons but they are enjoying being part of a team. They’re learning to be part of a team and what it’s like to take part in something bigger than themselves. That comes with sports or any extracurricular activity.”
Being a football coach puts you in a position to being a role model as well as member of the school staff. How seriously do you take that role?
“Being raised here and going through some tough times, I remember when some African-Americans took me under their wing when they really didn’t have to. Now I have a chance to come back and help the students here through their journey. It’s very important to give back to the community that gave so much to me.”
Some of the minority students believe that Greater Lafayette doesn’t hold much hope for them as far as encouragement and advancement. How do you reach them at this age?
“I’ve seen other parts of country and traveled overseas and I’ll tell you we’ve got it great here. Some of these kids get in their heads I’m leave small-time Lafayette and I’m never coming back. They would be surprised that we have a great community and great support system here. If people compare what we have here to other areas, they would be surprised and want to come back. We have new kids here and I think at times their view of the community is skewed. I try to help them find a better view of who we are and what we do here. What I want to make sure that comes across is that we’re welcoming and we’re for everybody.”
What does it take when you are face-to-face with a student in your office who has just gotten in trouble. How do you reach them at the time where they want to shut you out the most?
“Bottom line is that they are all great kids. Some have developed a behavior over time, get in trouble and get people to see them differently. Once you get past all the walls, hostility, fear and everything they put up, they still want someone they can look up to and respect. They want someone to care for them. Once you show you care and respect them, in return they will care and respect you as well.”