Skip to main content
Ed. Magazine

Community Building

Ed.L.D. student all in for K–12
Terrance Mitchell
Terrance Mitchell outside Harvard’s Carpenter Center
Photo: Matt Kalinowski

It was introduced as “a summer experience built with the Black boy in mind.” Three days of learning about leadership, what it means to be an entrepreneur, how to advocate for yourself, and the importance of storytelling. 

Created by Ed.L.D. student Terrance Mitchell and open to fifth through eighth-grade Black boys in Cambridge, Camp Harvard grew out of his work this past year with the Cambridge superintendent’s office and Harvard’s Phillips Brooks House. He says he chose the camp’s name intentionally, and not only because it was physically held at the Ed School and in Harvard Yard. 

“Most times when I see tour guides visiting the Harvard campus, I rarely see Black students,” he says. “We wanted the campus to be our oyster,” and for the boys to know that they belonged there. 

With little funding, Mitchell, a former teacher and principal in Atlanta, New Orleans, and more recently, his hometown, Cleveland, took on most of Camp Harvard’s duties, from teaching to facilitating lunches. Jumping fully in with the students was something he learned the importance of this past year in the Ed.L.D. Program

“How often do we move from the balcony and find connection to the people we are expected to lead?” he says. “Part of the lack of funding for the camp allowed me to think intentionally about the initiative we have for supporting our young people.” 

In late July, as Mitchell was getting ready for part two of the camp — a virtual session that included the original 20 boys from Cambridge, as well as boys from New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Cleveland — he talked about how he often felt invisible in school because his family constantly moved. 

“I went to a different elementary school every year of my life,” he says. It wasn’t easy, and he had to learn how to pivot between public and Catholic, suburban and urban. But, he says, the back-and-forth between different types of schools taught him something important: “It allowed me to see what schooling could and should be.” 

By the time he got to high school, centered in a housing project, he realized it was “sink or swim.” He was tracked in the school’s basic level but started advocating for himself — a skill he taught campers this summer — and eventually got into honors and AP classes. And then Darren Hudson, a young Black man and his ninth-grade American history teacher, essentially changed his life: He gave him a vhs tape about Morehouse College. 

“That was very transformational,” Mitchell says. “I shared with him that I attended a college tour over the summer and Morehouse was a good visit. He remembered this conversation and hand-delivered to me a vhs tape.” The Morehouse video, created for orientation, “solidified my choice of college. Prior, I didn’t think hbcus were diverse spaces and might limit my post-college opportunities. Watching this video of academically sound young Black men going through rituals and celebrations altered how I saw Black men in this country. Prior to that video, I had no idea of the collective power of Black men.” 

Mitchell eventually enrolled at Morehouse. Initially, he majored in applied physics and engineering, but after tutoring students at a community center in a Black neighborhood, he started taking education classes at nearby Spelman College. (Morehouse didn’t offer education classes — something he wants to help change someday.) 

After his first year, he went home to Cleveland for the summer and shared with his mother how much he liked tutoring and asked if she would be disappointed if he pursued teaching one day as a career. 

“She shared that she would be proud of any career path I took,” Mitchell says. “After a sophomore year course with Dr. Christine King Farris, the elder sister of Dr. [Martin Luther] King, I knew education would be my path. I immediately declared a major in early childhood education and the rest is history.” 

As Mitchell starts his second year in the Ed.L.D. Program, he’s continuing his internship with the Cambridge superintendent’s office and volunteering with the local branch of My Brother’s Keeper, as he keeps his eye on his own leadership goal: becoming superintendent of Cleveland public schools. 

“I have become very ambitious and excited about the opportunities we have” in education, he says. “Everything for me is in K–12.”

Ed. Magazine

The magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Related Articles