Photo courtesy of James Ford

January is National Mentoring Month, a campaign launched in 2002 that focuses attention on the need for mentors and promotes opportunities for those who want to get involved. This month, we’re talking to local leaders about their mentors and which mentoring organizations they’re supporting. 

James Ford, principal, Filling the Gap Educational Consultants

When Charlotte decided to address its upward mobility issue, it tapped into education advocate James Ford. The 2014-15 North Carolina Teacher of the Year serves as co-chair for the Leading on Opportunity council to help knock down systemic barriers keeping the city’s most vulnerable in poverty. Equity in education is a key piece to the puzzle, and Ford is connecting the dots at the local, state and federal levels.

*Questions and answers have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Which mentor has made the biggest impact on where you are today?

The mentor who has probably made the biggest impact on where I am currently is Dr. Chance Lewis at UNC Charlotte. Even before I entered the program, he befriended me while I was the CMS Teacher of the Year. He helped me to imagine the different ways I could have an impact on the field of education given my newfound mantle. Having him as a professor in the Urban Education PhD program allows me to continue to learn from him.

What’s the best advice he gave you?

To do what is best for you.

Also, recognizing that someone — who you may not know — is depending on you utilizing your gifts and doing something impactful. The constant recognition that what we say and do has consequences for others.

What’s a local mentoring organization everyone should know about?

Reggie Singleton’s The Males Place deserves a lot more recognition for the good work that they do with Black boys. The process of building strong young men with a sense of pride in their ancestry can really assist them as they develop. It feels like a rite of passage. It’s about building better men, and I think that’s a worthy model.

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