PROFILE: Brooke Carter Came to UC “By Mistake”
Student Brooke Carter claims to love her mistakes because they’re the only way she learns. She’s especially happy with her latest big “mistake,” the one that brought her to UC.
Date: 4/11/2005 8:00:00 AMEarly last fall, Brooke Carter, 27, of North Avondale, ended her three-week teaching career. “I told my Mom, ‘I’m not going back, and she was really mad,” recalls Brooke, who had just started a teaching practicum as a master of education student elsewhere.
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
Adds Brooke, “She was saying, ‘What about the tuition that’s already paid!?’ I just insisted, ‘I’m not going back. I want a master’s in social work, and I want it from UC.’ The very day I quit teaching, I called Linda Bates Parker [of the Career Development Center] at home for advice, and the next thing I know, UC is my home.”
Frustrated as a teacher in the classroom because she felt she wanted more power to change the lives of at-risk children, Brooke’s sudden realization that she wanted a career in social work and a degree from UC came just three days before the start of fall quarter 2004. She quickly applied to the university and enrolled as a part-time student in the Master of Social Work program. Almost as quickly, she became a mentor and mother hen for 37 African American undergraduates as part of the Career Development Center’s ADVANCE program.
“Even my Mom admits it was the right decision for me,” says Brooke. “She says that by my second or third week at UC, I had my sparkle back.” She adds, “Trying to teach was the worst mistake I’d ever made. I didn’t know that I could be this happy again.”
Though, in reality, Brooke is still teaching, just by different means than the formal classroom setting. As the graduate program coordinator of ADVANCE, she partners African American first-year students with upper-class mentors. At the same time, she constantly encourages her fellow students to advance in their educational careers while providing practical guidance.
For instance, when business management and African American studies major Philishea Carden, 19, of Mt. Healthy, needed to get into some much-needed classes, Brooke helped the new student slip into those classes at the beginning of winter quarter. “I was having trouble getting all the classes I wanted. Brooke helped me to contact the professors directly so I eventually got a complete schedule for the quarter. When it happened again for spring quarter, I knew what to do and got the schedule I wanted,” explains Philishea, adding that she meets with her fellow ADVANCE students every afternoon to study, find support and even relieve stress by, occasionally, drawing in coloring books.
Of the students she mentors, Brooke says, “Many of them are first-generation college students. Many might have moved out of the house before finishing high school. They face a lot of challenges and want to find their niche at UC. I tell them, if I can do it, they can. I came to UC and opened doors. I knew no one, but now when I walk through Career Development or One Stop, I hear, ‘Hi Brooke….What are you doing for lunch?’ For me, it’s like family here.”
She means that literally. Brooke is included in many UC students’ families and vice versa. “I ate three Thanksgiving dinners at different homes,” she laughs, adding, “….and asked the students to my home at Christmas…When I had a tooth pulled, the students all called, and one brought me mashed potatoes. I give to the students everything I wish I’d had when I was an undergraduate, and they give so much back.”
Hired and paid for 20 hours a week, Brooke routinely puts in about 40 hours of work as ADVANCE’s coordinator. She visits with students and their parents at home, counsels students individually, helps them pick classes and is, literally, on call till after midnight every night.
Not too surprisingly, she’s already been recognized for her work. Brooke was one of 10 city-wide leaders – out of 200 nominated – to receive an Applause Leadership Award in February 2005. Many of the ADVANCE students accompanied her to the awards ceremony. She recalled, “I didn’t know I was a winner till that night. They called out the 10 winners one by one. They were up to seven, and my name still hadn’t been called. When my name was finally called, we were all crying. But I think my students were happier for me than I was.”