Dr. Cleamon Moorer Jr. talks narrowing the education and opportunity gap.
If you ask Dr. Cleamon Moorer Jr. to trace the turning point of his life’s trajectory, it came in the mid ’90s when he had a crisis of academic faith.
His parents were struggling financially. And, even with financial aid and earnings from a co-op, Moorer, a student at General Motors Institute of Technology (now Kettering University) in Flint, was wrestling with the courses he was taking. It was too much to handle, and the results were disastrous.
He flunked out.
Today, Moorer is dean of Flint-based Baker College’s business school and, earlier this year, was dubbed “Mr. Higher Learning” by Black Enterprise magazine.
How? He enrolled again and, with the help of several mentors, went on to earn his doctorate in business administration.
"I’ve always believed when you get in a position to help others, you shouldn’t hesitate," Moorer says.
That’s why the west-side Detroit native is now focused on fostering mentorship for other young students – largely with Dr. C. Moorer & Associates, Inc., a nonprofit he created in 2012. Its aim is to provide scholarship opportunities for K-12 kids and educator’s grants for teachers.
Moorer also developed mymentorwasme.net in an effort to connect mentors with students. The idea is for students to make a two- to three-minute video identifying someone that’s been inspirational or influential to them, Moorer explains.
He understands that a gap exists in mentorship opportunities, particularly in lives of young black boys, as more programs push for girls in the STEM fields of science, engineering, technology and math.
"We struggle with that gap," Moorer says. "Part of it has to do with mentoring and obviously matching young boys to mentors."
He credits his own parents with doing a “sound job” of affirming him at an early age.
"I didn’t struggle with identity and self-doubt, and I think that’s critical," Moorer says. "I think it’s very dire that we affirm – whether you affirm your own child or a child in the neighborhood. Those are some of the voices that they’ll be able to refer to, to combat some of the negative voices they hear about themselves."
He’s also offered that supportive voice in his book From Failure to Promise: 360 Degrees – and by creating PURSUIT, a publication for all 11 of Baker’s Michigan campuses that highlights other people’s stories of pursuing their academic dreams.
Moorer believes the current culture is obsessed with “LAME” – look at me, everyone.
"When you think about our heroes, they didn’t have that 'look at me, everyone' approach to the things that they did," Moorer says. "I realized that journalism was powerful. You can personify the journey and the pursuit of education.
"There’s enough ‘selfies’ out there."
Especially as father to four sons ages 7-16 – not to mention an active “Big” with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit – Moorer understands youth need a set of nuanced skills that require occasional sharpening and redirection.
"We’re teaching them to disarm ignorance with intelligence," Moorer says. "I strive to communicate to them that they need to trump bigotry with brilliance and trump prejudice with performance."
And for those who might be struggling like he did all those years ago?
"Always push for a higher level," Moorer says. "Never (be) satisfied with the status quo. Because if you’re not early, you’re late."