Leading Men Fellowship at Next Door

Isouma Shine is getting a lot more hugs these days than he usually gets — and they’re not coming from his family or close friends. Instead, it’s a class of four-year-olds at Next Door showering the 18-year-old with these warm embraces.

“There are a lot of hugs, especially when I’m leaving,” Shine said.

Shine is one of six Leading Men Fellows from Milwaukee working in Next Door classrooms for the 2018-2019 school year. The Leading Men Fellowship is run by the Literacy Lab of Washington, D.C., for recent high school graduates. The goal is to give them on-the-job experience to explore a career in early childhood education while helping organizations, like Next Door, get children ready for school.

The fellows participated in extensive training in Washington, D.C., and locally. They currently have regular coaching sessions alongside the five days a week they spend in the classroom at Next Door.

“It’s really good experience especially because I’m right there doing it with the teachers, helping them out and seeing how they do their work in class,” Shine said.

Shine starts his day leading a “Daily Message” offering students a taste of what’s to come. He sings learning songs with the children, reads stories to them and helps them practice spelling their names. He knows being a role model is important, too.

“A lot of them do some of the stuff that I do, so I have to make sure I watch what I do and make sure they are doing the right thing,” Shine said.

Next Door’s President, Dr. Tracey Sparrow, first reached out to the Literacy Lab in June of 2017. After a few conversations with leaders there, they came to Milwaukee  to give a presentation about the fellowship to Next Door and other local early childhood advocates.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm during that meeting about what positive outcomes this program could have in our community,” Dr. Sparrow said. “It’s exciting to see the program up and running now — we’re already seeing these young men impacting our students.”

In early 2019, Shine decided to enroll at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he’s planning to double major in education and criminal justice. He also plans to pursue part-time employment at Next Door after completing the fellowship.

Click HERE to read a Journal Sentinel article featuring the Leading Men Fellowship and its work in early childhood education in Milwaukee.

Click HERE to learn more about The Literacy Lab.