Pursuing Equity in Education: Kevin's Leadership Story

iMentor continuously works to amplify Black voices and experiences. For Black History Month, we are highlighting some of the leadership stories of Black staff as they describe what motivates them to invest in iMentor students and pursue education equity work.

Kevin Weston, a senior program manager for college success with iMentor NYC, has been with the organization for more than three years. When we spoke to Kevin, he shared how his identity as a Black man influences his work and revealed a moment in his personal life that reaffirmed the importance of representation in the education system.

What first inspired you to get involved in education equity work and build a career in this field?

I started my career in Harlem as a volunteer with the Children’s Aid Society when I was 17 years old. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life at that time. I struggled with the students, but I had a great mentor that told me, “The students may not get what you are trying to show them today or even while you know them, but one day they will look back and remember what you taught them.” That stayed with me and made me want to be there to make a difference in young people’s lives. The students became very close with me by the end of the school year and it left me very optimistic.

How does being a Black professional influence your work?

Without realizing it, there is a thought process that when you are Black, you have to work twice as hard to be recognized. Although this way of thinking is negative and should not even exist in our society, this thought process helps me commit to excellence on every endeavor.

Was there a distinct moment when the importance of representation in the education system was reaffirmed for you?

Yes, that moment happened later in my career. During the holiday season seven years ago, I took my kids to see the Christmas lights in Pelham. We had a great time looking at the angels, disciples, Santa and his little helpers. When we got back to the car, my son—who was five years old—asked me if Black people were bad people. I asked him why he would ask such a question and he responded, “Because there are no such things as Black angels or any Black people in heaven.” It hit me then how important it is to see people who look like you doing positive things. And indirectly, it further inspired me to be a role model to my young people of color.

From your experience in student-facing work, what are some ways people can better support Black and Brown students and help them gain access to more educational resources?

I think one of the most important things you can do is meet the student where they are at. First you find out what the students feel they need, then you share resources that can help them get there. Too many times we share resources that we think would be great, but they’re not even the direction that the student wants to go.

What advice do you have for students in this program who want to build their leadership skills?

The important thing to know is the best people in any field have made the most mistakes. How good you are at anything is directly correlated to how willing you are to make mistakes. Always be bold and use your voice. Your voice is valued, your voice is important, your voice is powerful!

Want to learn more? Check out "Why Every Workplace Needs Affinity Groups" and watch this conversation about "Understanding POC Student Experiences at Predominantly White Colleges"