A native Detroiter, Jeron Campbell has always loved to teach. As an undergraduate, he volunteered to tutor fellow students while studying electrical engineering at Michigan State University. After graduation, he volunteered as a tutor for Detroit high school students in several nonprofit programs before deciding to start his own.
In 2001, Jeron approached the engineering department at Wayne State University with an idea: Why not run a tutorial program for Detroit’s seventh- through 12th-graders to better prepare them for high school and college? Jeron now spends upwards of 20 hours a week teaching math, English, high school preparation and ACT/SAT test skills — on top of his job as an engineer at Ford Motor Co. and part-time doctorate engineering student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“All I needed was a classroom,” said Jeron, who received permission from Wayne State, then founded the nonprofit Campbell Academic Services. “I recruited volunteer tutors from work so that the kids would just have to pay for their books.”
He’s already received a Detroit community development block grant that will enable him to hire an assistant this year. But his biggest goal is to lease a building from the Detroit Public Schools to open an academic support services center for the district. Although he and his tutors would continue to volunteer, the utilities alone could cost upwards of $40,000 per year. But even in these strained economic times, Jeron is convinced that he can raise the money to run the nonprofit center.
He calls his program Aces, a supplemental instructional program designed to raise students’ performance in the core areas of algebra, geometry, critical reasoning, English comprehension and standardized test-taking. He has focused on inner-city children, where low motivation and few opportunities for affordable educational enrichment exist. Now, even though he is not married and doesn’t have kids of his own, Jeron is touching the lives of more than 150 students per semester and 200 more during the summer.
“If I haven’t uplifted people as I progress in life,” he said. “Then I haven’t succeeded.”
“The people you remember in history,” the Ford Motor Co. engineer said, “are the people who went over and above what was expected. That’s what I try to do in my life, and that’s what I want for the children of Detroit.”
Jeron sees a mountain and decides to climb it. He has his dreams, and he’s encouraged by each child that he reaches.
Excerpts taken from: Tenisha Mercer, The Detroit News
Desiree Cooper, Detroit Free Press Columnist
Photo courtesy John T. Greilick, The Detroit News