Supporter Profile: Amina Brown
As a former District of Columbia Public School English and Journalism teacher at both the junior high and high school level, Ms. Amina Brown is familiar with the challenges that at-risk, neglected and abandoned youth confront daily. First hand encounters with children orphaned by AIDS, drug addiction, and stories of struggle through extreme poverty–often under a pervasive and unremitting threat of lethal violence–serve as motivation for Ms. Brown’s commitment to education reform and innovative curriculum design. Ms. Brown is currently the Senior Director of Programs for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) where she is charged with helping NFTE DC fulfill its potential as a force for change by building an ever-expanding and increasingly academic strategy leveraging private and public sectors committed to educational excellence and opportunity for all children. In this role, Ms. Brown is responsible for enabling and accelerating NFTE DC’s impact by 1) building partnerships with schools, districts, supporters, government, community organizations, and other education institutions; 2) developing and executing an instructional coaching model that harnessed experience from both MBAs and teachers of mathematics instruction; and 3) supporting the harnessing of STEM, and other critical area education financial streams to enable NFTE’s growth and operations.
Prior to her experience at NFTE, Ms. Brown was an Instructional Performance Coach at Anacostia Senior High School as part of DCPS’ School Turnaround and Restructuring Effort. Prior to this experience, Ms. Brown was a District Literacy Coach/Reading Intervention Program Manager for District of Columbia Public schools via the Office of Curriculum and Instruction. In this capacity she was responsible for working collaboratively with school-based instructional coaches to demonstrate best practices in reading intervention and literacy. This work included modeling, co-teaching, co-planning for and observing both teachers and coaches. Additionally, she was responsible for creating training materials, lesson plans, and Web-based resources to assist teachers with instruction; and, for establishing professional development and teacher training seminars all aimed at guiding effective teaching that integrated best practices in literary development.
Ms. Brown’s experiences as a high school English teacher and as a District curriculum manager and literacy instructional coach have afforded her the ability to examine and contribute to the fundamental structures, policies and institutions that influence teacher quality and high impact instruction. Ms. Brown has consistently aligned herself with the goal of maximizing teacher quality in high-needs schools. She finds inspiration in the hard work, talent and impact of America’s best educators and subsequently has undertaken a range of professional activities to increase the concentration and effectiveness of teachers in high-need schools. Ms. Brown holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Syracuse University and Master’s degree from the American University in Journalism and Public Affairs and is certified in International Baccalaureate World Literature; Advanced Placement Language and Composition and Adult Literacy. Ms. Brown is a native Washingtonian.
She had this to say about Free Minds:
“Free Minds is more than an organization; it is a youth intervention model. First hand encounters with young men who have blazed paths that are, in many cases, appealing or ostensibly necessary to the youth we serve offer more credibility and more cause for pause than any pedantic or academic median. These young men embrace responsibility and should be measured not by what they’ve done, but what they are doing.
“Free Minds is a perfect partner to any organization whose mission is to work with low-income, disaffected youth. Free Minds gives selflessly the most priceless gift of life which is the ability to learn from mistakes. More often than not incarceration breaks the soul of a man, but in their cases it has sharpened their moral core and transformed them into pillars of principle that in the face of desperate situations and unnerving temptaion they dare to look toward the future and all of its vast possibilities, rather than become victims of present circumstance and all of its shortsighted calamity.”
Learn more about Amina’s work at www.nfte.com.
Supporter Profile: Marcus Bullock
Marcus Bullock spent several years of his youth behind bars. While there, he made a pact with three of his codefendants: they promised each other and themselves that they would be successful in each of their chosen fields. They have all held to their promises! Of course, the road leading up to that point hadn’t been easy. Marcus recalls a significant turning point in his life prior to coming home. While he was incarcerated, his cousin was killed. At only 16-17 years old, Marcus had difficulty controlling his grief and anger. An older man in the prison “took the opportunity to be a mentor, kind of a father figure … He said ‘some of us are never going home, and when you go home you’ll be 23 years old. Why don’t you go home and make something of yourself?’”
Coming home from prison, the hardest thing for Marcus was to find that first job. But with determination, hard work, and support from friends and family, he soon found the opportunity he needed. He got a job at a paint store, which led to contacts with a contracting company, which eventually helped Marcus when he established his own company, Perspectives Premier. Perspectives started as a painting company but grew into a home remodeling company.
Now, as a businessman, Marcus enjoys the flexibility of working for himself and deciding what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. This flexibility allows him to enjoy life. His favorite book is 1984 by George Orwell. When asked about his proudest accomplishment, he says, without hesitation, “My son.” For Free Minds members and other young people in the situation he was once in, Marcus says that they have to find something they like to do and learn to do it well so that they are ready for success. “You only get lucky once, and once you get lucky you want to make sure you’re prepared for that opportunity. Stay positive, find something that you really enjoy doing, and do it well.” Marcus has found something he enjoys doing: business. His latest entrepreneurial venture is Flikshop. Flikshop is an app that enables users to take a photograph and send it as a postcard to an inmate, encouraging and strengthening the ties between inmates and their loved ones. Flikshop also offers incarcerated people a vital way to stay in touch with people on the outside. Marcus was inspired to create Flikshop partially in recognition of the changing face of technology. Previous generations might have sat down and written letters to be mailed along with family photos, but, he says, “Nobody does that anymore. Cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram … with all of these different new forms of technology that are on the horizon, it allows you to take advantage of the quickness of the technology.” With the app, people can send a picture to an incarcerated friend or family member within seconds of taking the picture, enabling a faster and easier form of communication. Learn more about Marcus Bullock’s work at www.flikshop.com.
We are so grateful for the generosity of both the individuals and institutions who make our work possible. Free Minds receives and has received financial support from the following foundations:
Aliza Family Foundation
Ballard Spahr LLP
Capitol Hill Community Foundation
Claude & Nancy Keener Charitable Fund
Clifford & Deborah White Family Fund
Commonweal Foundation Fund of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region
Community Foundation for the National Capital Region
Compassion Capital Fund’s Communities Empowering Youth Program
Crowell & Moring Foundation
Daughters of the American Revolution (Eleanor Wilson Chapter)
DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities
The District of Columbia Daughters of the American Revolution, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation
The Fullen-Smith Foundation
Georgetown University Galvanizers
The Global Fund for Children
Harman Family Foundation
The Herb Block Foundation
The Humanities Council of Washington, DC
The International Monetary Fund Civic Program
Jon & Bea Plasse Foundation
The Jovid Foundation
Lainoff Family Foundation
Mental Wellness Foundation
Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
National Book Foundation
New York Avenue Foundation
Philip L. Graham Fund
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Ronald McDonald Foundation House Charities® Global
Ronald McDonald Foundation House Charities® of Greater Washington D.C.
Ruddie Memorial Youth Foundation
SPARC Foundation, George Washington University
Spring Creek Foundation
The SuPau Trust Private Foundation
United Way of the National Capital Area
This list is accurate to the best of our ability. Please contact us to inform us of an error or omission.
Free Minds thanks Mr. Thomas Faust, Director of the DC Department of Corrections; Deputy Director Carolyn Cross; Warden Gregory Futch; Reverend Betty Green; Correctional Institutional Administrator for Programs Latoya Lane; and Public Information Officer Sylvia Lane, as well as Correctional Treatment Facility staff Warden Isaac Johnston; Assistant Warden and Public Information Officer Walter Fulton; Reverend Kenneth Napper, and all of the dedicated staff at both facilities who continually support our program. We are also grateful to the staff and teachers of the DCPS Incarcerated Youth Program, led by Principal Ms. Soncyree Lee.