Advocating for Education
When Reginald Bolding was a child growing up in Akron, Ohio, he thought lawyers were fictional characters only seen on television.
It wasn’t until he was chosen for an internship in high school that took him out of his low-income neighborhood and placed him in the corporate world, that his eyes were opened.
“I learned that lawyers are just people like you and me. If you are a kid from a low-income community, you might not understand that,” he said. “I had never seen a lawyer.”
Because the internship opened his mind and cleared a path for him, he was able to pursue an education and follow his dreams.
“I never knew I would be in Phoenix, Arizona. I did believe good things would happen. I just didn’t know how to make it happen. The internship taught me how to do it,” he said.
Bolding went on to earn a bachelors of science degree in criminal justice and international security at the University of Cincinnati, a masters of education degree from Arizona State University and is working on his doctorate in education policy and administration at ASU.
He is currently on the faculty of ASU as a clinical instructor teaching student teachers and veteran educators about how to be an affective teacher in Arizona classrooms.
And because he wants to inspire others like himself, he is the founder and president of the non-profit Future Leaders of Arizona, which provides high level internships to high school and college students from low-income communities in law and doctors offices and in larger corporations in the area.
“We provide them experience working in these high level professions first so they can believe they can be successful and second, so they will have contacts and a pathway,” he said.
Not bad for a kid from Akron, but what is truly remarkable about his accomplishments is that he is only 25.
“I started this organization because, for me growing up in Ohio, in a low-income community, I never saw any professionals.
Bolding turned down a scholarship to law school and instead took a position with Teach For America, where he landed in South Phoenix as a teacher in the Roosevelt School District.
“I wanted to be a lawyer, but I wanted to be a role model for students like me,” he said. “Law school would always be there. I wanted to teach. I relocated to Phoenix. It’s been five years and I love it.”
He said he plans to some day go to law school.
“It’s still a passion. It is still there, but right now my focus is working with students and making sure we have better teachers in the classroom,” he said.
Bolding said he understands the power of education.
“I know is sounds cliche, but to be 100 percent honest, there is no way I would have had the opportunities I have now. I wouldn’t be living in this awesome city and start this non-profit organization,” he said. “My eyes opened and it showed me I could pursue all these dreams that I wanted.”
Bolding said they are in the process of recruiting the class on 2012 for future leaders, which will consist of five to seven students from low-income areas in the South Phoenix area who have at least a 3.0 grade point average and show they are involved in their community.
The two-year-old program, which lasts six weeks, puts the students into professional firms so they can experience what it might be like to work there for real. “It gives them the chance to experience what it is like to be a professional and have a career. Some of our students have never seen downtown Phoenix. Some have never been out of their area. They are stunned,” he said.
Some of the internships are paid, some are not, but each gives a student the opportunity to leave their neighborhood and experience something different.
“I look at each student as my younger brother or sister. If parents don’t know about financial aid or how to apply to college, I felt I needed to be there in the community to help.”
Bolding was the first in his family to graduate from college.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” he said. “My mother would always push for us to have it better than she did. A single mother, she worked three jobs to support her three boys, my mom was a huge influence on me,” he said.
Active in high school, he was a senior class officer. He was on the honor roll, played football and ran track. In college he not only ran track for the University of Cincinnati, he founded the organization Future Black Law Students.
“We ended our year with 35 students,” he said.
He’s kept track of the other students in the club.
“Six are currently in law school and two have already graduated from law school,“ he said. Bolding stays busy in the community. Currently he serves on the Community Development Review Commission where he helps decide which non-profit organizations are given federal block grants. He is also a member of Any Town Arizona, which recently merged with the YMCA to help teach youth leaderships skills.
He is also a fellow with the Center for Progressive Leadership, which provides leaders in the community the nuts and bolts of running for political office.
In 2009, he was designated as a Community Luminary by the State of Black Arizona. Bolding said he plans to run for political office in 2012, either as a state representative or the Maricopa Community College governing board.
To learn more about the future leaders visit HYPERLINK “http://www.azfutureleaders.org/” \t “_blank” www.azfutureleaders.org or email@example.com.