*Educator and author Dr. Paul Miller knows all too well the obstacles that young, poor minority males face in the inner city. As a boy raised in the projects of Rochester, NY, he was one of them. Many of his peers were raised by the streets, later confined to a hopeless life on the city blocks, in prison or even worse. Fortunately, Dr. Miller, who is the principal and CEO of Green Tech High Charter School, had a grandmother who instilled in him the value of education. Now, he is doing the same for others.
At Green Tech, some of the most forgotten about students are transformed into the future leaders of tomorrow. Student enrollment consists of 97% black males, and more than 80% of them are classified as living in poverty. However, since 2012, Dr. Miller has been able to perform wonders. Under his leadership, the graduation rate at Green Tech has reached 94% with a 100% college acceptance rate for graduates. In addition, students have earned over $13 million is scholarships.
“Here at Green Tech, our key to success is that we have developed a safe haven for students and their issues because they often come into school without academics on their minds,” Dr. Miller said. “They have other challenges in their lives. We offer workshops and programs that work on the whole child to help them become prepared to tackle the work and grow and develop properly. Academically, we do things differently than other schools. We have set up things so kids can’t fail. We groom kids for success here.”
Amil Rodriguez, a 17 year-old senior at Green Tech knew what he was in for the second he stepped into Dr. Miller’s office for the first time with his parents. Not only was education taken seriously in his household, but Dr. Miller committed to keeping an eye on him. From the very beginning, Rodriguez learned valuable character traits.
“One of the biggest areas was time management. They throw a lot on you as a freshman. They give you all the rules, all of the assignments and you don’t know how you are going to handle it,” he said. “But if you ask for help, they help you. At first I couldn’t handle the workload, but now I have improved my time management.”
While Rodriguez was able to adjust as time progressed, others had difficulty getting on track.
“Not everyone is made for Green Tech,” he said. “Not everyone can handle the structure. But it is not bad at all, you have to learn how to handle it. If you can’t handle being reprimanded, being asked to tuck in your shirt, and pushed to be your best, it may be too much. [Some students] can’t take the direction, but you have to realize that no one is trying to hurt you in that building.”
Shane Francis, a graduate of Green Tech who is now an employee, can relate to experiencing challenges with the structure as a student. At his previous school in St. Albans, Queens, he was typically able to coast through classes despite skipping often and not taking academics seriously.
“I was someone who really fought against structure and discipline a lot,” said Francis. “I thought I was on top of the world. I was smart but I was bad. I did whatever I wanted.”
When he attended Green Tech, things began to change.
“I didn’t like it at all. I hated it and the transition was tough. There was more structure and it was a power struggle. I wanted to roam the halls when I wanted to. Things changed from me not having work to challenge me to then having work to meet that challenge. All my classes I got were honors classes. It was what I needed, but I fought it. I left and went back to Queens, but eventually, I returned and the rest is history.”
Francis is currently attending Schenectady County Community College and looking pursue a degree in managerial accounting.
Witnessing the success of his students and others in the community makes life worthwhile according to Dr. Miller. As someone who has spent more than 15 years in urban public education and in school redesign and reform, he understands what it takes to build the next generation of leaders, and he embraces the responsibility of imparting lessons in young men both inside and outside of the classroom.
Dr. Miller has been recognized by the City of Albany as a Man of Valor, and as one of the top 40 Under 40 African American Leaders by the City of Rochester among other accomplishments. He is also the author of two books – We Need to Do Better, a book on the importance of collaboration between families, schools and the community to empower and educate urban youth; and the other called CyberBullying: Breaking the Cycle of Conflict, which is a qualitative study of the black female experiences with cyberbullying in urban environments. Needless to say, for the husband and father, kids are his life.
“Our youth have to do better,” he said. “Their mindsets have to change, but it is up to us to improve their mindsets by having the right systems and procedures in place, expanding their surroundings, and developing their minds. The morals and values of education aren’t where they need to be. There are amazing kids out there and we have to do whatever we can to lead them to successful and productive lives.”
For more information on Dr. Paul Miller and Green Tech High Charter School, visit www.greentechhigh.org or call 518-694-3400. To schedule an interview with Dr. Miller, contact Ivan Thomas of Intrigue Media Group at 202-904-4790 or [email protected].
Intrigue Media Group