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WBOI Special Coverage 

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For much of his career, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has made it his mission to, as he puts it, "bring the universe down to earth."

As director of New York's Hayden Planetarium and one of the premiere science communicators of his time, Tyson has guided millions of people through the wonders of the universe, most recently as host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a reboot of Carl Sagan's 1980 PBS series.

Lisa Dunn and Janice Hunter are teachers at Fort Wayne's Lakeside Middle School who both have a passion for teaching students about STEM concepts and careers. STEM is shorthand for "science, technology, engineering and math."

It's a passion that led them to Purdue University in West Lafayette over the summer, where they were selected to participate in a program called TechFit.  

Most teachers use their summer vacation to take some time away from students.  However, this wasn't the case for Towles New Tech Middle School teacher Carissa Richardson.  She spent her summer traveling all over Europe with 40 students.   

Richardson spent time in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom in the People to People Ambassador Program.  The program was founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower, with the notion that peace comes through traveling abroad and understanding other cultures.

Tony Lemmon teaches science and math at Shawnee Middle School and driver's education on the side.  He put last winter's snow days to good use by writing a book about his driver's ed experiences and spent the summer getting the word out about his book.  

Nine months out of the year, Bob Ahlersmeyer is an English teacher at Carroll High School in Fort Wayne.  But he’s a showman at heart, and once class is dismissed, you can often find him in community theater productions and even local commercials.

This summer though, he decided to try his hand at stardom. For six weeks, anyway.

Ahlersmeyer received a Lilly Grant to travel to Hollywood to blog about his experiences auditioning for movies and commercials. He plans on using his blog to educate students on online journalism and blog-writing.  

Laura McCoy is a music teacher at St. Joseph Central Elementary School in Fort Wayne. During the summer months, she decided to take a trip to Peru. But she had more on her mind than just sightseeing.

McCoy lost her parents at a young age, and now devotes a lot of her time to working with children at Erin's House for Grieving Children, which helps young people learn to cope with loss.

Ron Lewis

As we heard in Wednesday's interview with Ron Lewis, significant challenges exist for young black men in the classroom, and many are hard to quantify. 

But those challenges don't end when those men get to college. 

Only about 15 percent of college students are black – and African-American students are less than half as likely as their white counterparts to complete their degree on time.

Ron Lewis

By now, it should be no surprise to listeners of The Difference that young African-American men are falling behind their peers in the classroom.

In everything from graduation rates to reading proficiency to disciplinary action, the achievement gap between black boys and their classmates is wide.

Geoff Paddock

From education to income, there’s a significant gap between black men and their peers in Fort Wayne- last year, the City was awarded a technical grant from the National League of Cities to address the disparity.

As a part of the initiative, the NLC held a conference in Oakland last month for the participating cities to learn about strategies for improving black male achievement.

Rescue Mission

Fort Wayne Rescue Mission CEO Donovan Coley never thought of himself as black until he moved to the U.S. from Jamaica. 

According to Coley, being black in America isn’t just about skin tone. For many,  it’s a role to play in society – a role Coley says he was taught and expected to learn. 

For him, it’s a story of wrestling with a dual identity. It's a perspective he says allowed him to better understand how white and black people interact and the unwritten rules of those interactions. 

Here’s Coley on how he learned to be a black man in America.

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