Transforming Our Police Forces: One Student's Vision for Transformation and Leadership

On the heals of Baltimore's race riots, we awoke this morning to learn of biker shootings and police confrontations in Waco, Texas. Whether the location is urban or rural, America is embroiled in racial setbacks which aren't characteristic of progress we've made on other fronts. Here is a person who gives me hope and who I hope will be an inspiration to you as well as we commit to move forward positively and proactively.

18-year-old Trammel Moore grew up in the small rural hamlet called Coolidge in Thomas County, Georgia. In 2000, when Trammel was 4, the census reported 552 inhabitants, smaller than most high school graduating classes. In Coolidge, everyone knew everyone else and probably more than they should about everyone else's business. In 2013, the population was 526.

When Trammel was 8, he moved with his mom to an area called Fairway Oaks in a remote suburb of Jacksonville, Florida. With his brothers all sharing a room, the family stayed close physically and emotionally. What happened the next year was truly life-changing. The family applied for and received a Habitat for Humanity home. Instead of living on top of each other, the boys finally had their own rooms where they could expand, explore and experience so much of what middle-class America may take for granted.

When he was younger, Trammel enjoyed going to school. But as he grew older and the methods became more rote, programmed and testing-based, he drifted and, at times, disengaged. "School could have been much better for me if myself and my fellow students had a say-so in what was happening," Trammel lamented. "I'd like to have participated in how we were taught and what we were taught and I think many of my unmotivated friends felt the same. We needed more school trips, more activities, more interaction and more ways to make connections between what we were learning and the world outside of school," said Trammel.

In fact, Trammel was on track to become another statistic until he met Travis Pinckney, who has been his advocate, role model and tough-love sponsor from the Hicks Family Foundation. Trammel's grades were not up to par and the only chance he had to graduate would be scoring above 20 on the ACT. The first time he took the ACT, he scored a 15. With Travis' commitment, the two worked together tirelessly to write down questions, dig deeply beyond surface meanings and search for clues to the most challenging words and problems. Trammel learned to persist, dig deep and thrive in the midst of what he didn't know because he was learning to figure it out. The two compared the ACT to real-life situations where Travis asked Trammel to recognize subtle details in complex texts so that he could draw his own conclusions. Trammel learned to perceive the hidden realities that are the key to real learning and understanding. He took the ACT again and scored 20 -- a five point increase. This summer, he will begin prep classes for admittance to Edward Waters College, founded in 1866 to educate freed former slaves and the oldest historically black college in Florida. Trammel will join the ranks of such notable alumni as Nathaniel Glover, Buck O'Neil, Alvin Brown and Willye Dennis.

But what gave me hope about Trammel was not just his grit in applying himself to learn new academic skills or the positive way that he overcame a very disappointing torn cartilage in his knee or even the goals he has for freshmen year to lose weight, stay focused and avoid negative people. The most impressive aspect is the strong vision he has to be a leader in transforming race relations by majoring in criminal justice to peacefully and effectively recast our police system in America.

Trammel has a commitment to understand all people, look broadly at fair and ethical issues and compassionately develop within himself and his future police team the abilities to be compassionate leaders who balance power with purpose and have the keen ability to deescalate negative emotions by diplomatically pulling people together to impact real, lasting change. I have no doubt that Trammel will reach these goals and will help us all to set a new standard in America for effective race relations among police, education, health and human services, public health providers and the community as a whole. Young people like Trammel are the hope for America because they show us how we can heal, rise above the incendiary acts of violence, ignorance and intolerance and achieve a more effective outcome.

To be sure, Trammel will make the founding fathers of Edward Waters College proud as someone who decided not be the victim, but looked higher and modeled how to be the leader. Working with Travis to master how to "recognize the subtle" will be the bedrock of his conflict negotiations and diplomacy skills. I look forward to seeing Trammel's path unfold and I'm thrilled that an 18-year-old can hold such a purpose at a time when our nation needs that vision to be fulfilled more than ever.

Trammel's mentor Travis will speak at the GlobalMindED Conference, June 18-19 in Denver along with many other role models who stand for change and leadership. At GlobalMindED, we've created a movement that directly supports first-generation college students, as well as discussions between educators and employers on how they can be on the forefront to help first-generation students achieve access and equity in all aspects of their lives. People like Trammel who will be part of the solution in our country deserve our support, our understanding and our unflinching commitment to liberty, justice, access and fulfillment for all.

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