Ken Rodgers giving back to the students at Blackshear Elementary School in Houston (Photo courtesy of Ruth Allen Ollison).
Blackshear Elementary School is one the public schools located in the Greater Third Ward area of Houston. The population in this southeast Houston area includes over 13,000 residents. Blackshear has great value to the Black and Brown families it serves. Already challenged by poverty, the school was severely impacted by the pandemic three years ago. These articles examine positive impacts and possibilities for Blackshear and its families. Like many schools, Blackshear was affected by the pandemic. This is the first of a series of articles about the inner-city diamond-in-the-rough, and the efforts and perspectives of those who place great value on the school and its young scholars.
This is a series of articles on Blackshear Elementary School presented by Dr Ruth Ollison and The National Association of Black Journalists. Part One focuses on how one person has made an amazing difference for the school.
We are also including a first-person account of a Blackshear Alum.
We are also producing an article on the new principal and spearheading an outreach project, “Back In School” to encourage parents in the Third Ward area to bring their children back to the school as its student population was adversely impacted by the recent pandemic. For publication in RegalMag.com, parts one and two have been combined into one article.
“Mr. Rodgers’ Little Neighbors in the Hood; One Person Making a Big Difference” by Ruth Allen Ollison
Even Ken Rodgers can’t explain his affinity for Blackshear Elementary School but mention the school to him and you can hear the love oozing out of the 71-year-old native of Houston’s Third Ward. Rodgers is a hero, an ordinary person doing extraordinary stuff. He is like Robin Hood, the Black Panther, Batman, and Superman all rolled into one when it comes to the little Black and Brown kids in the heart of Third Ward.
Soft spoken and unassuming, the former professional clothier is now often clad in a t-shirt and jeans zipping around in a well worked jeep. Rodgers has become an effective force for resources for the children of Blackshear.
His involvement began over eight years ago when he got wind of the need for the students to have uniforms, extra uniforms and underwear. At an elementary school, with hundreds of children, accidents do happen, embarrassing accidents. Rodgers did not look around to find help to solve the problem. He looked for a space, a closet at the school to begin filling with uniforms and supplies. That was just the beginning.
This could be a natural outgrowth of the family motto he has with his wife and three children: “Not for ourselves, but for others.”
He may seem to be an unlikely philanthropist, but this great love affair is paying off for the urban school hit hard by the pandemic three years ago. But Mr. Rodgers was there before Covid 19, throughout the pandemic and now. His commitment has given birth to Operation Love.
What has remained steady is Ken Rodgers’ principles. “I saw that the children needed things and I just tried to fill in the blanks.”
Black and Hispanic parents can walk their children to school located at the corner of Holman and Ennis Streets.
Blackshear is a mainstay in the community. Many of the families are under the poverty line, but like many children who don’t have economic advantages, they are rich in love and potential. They are not looking for sympathy, rather opportunity.
Clareka Bailey shakes hands with Blackshear Elementary School principal Sukari Stredit-Thomas (Photo courtesy of Ruth Allen Ollison).
“Blessed by Blackshear”
An Essay by Clareka Bailey (submitted to Ruth Allen Ollison)
My Blackshear Experience by Miss Clareka Bailey
My younger experience and me being back in Blackshear Elementary School are something I think about almost every week as I continue to grow into adulthood and take on more responsibilities.
The time that I attended Blackshear Elementary School was such a great experience. I wish I had a longer experience because it seems as if my time there only lasted for a moment. If I could go back to Blackshear Elementary and experience being a student there, I would. The field days, the Valentine dances, the movie nights and even my favorite; being a Blackshear cheerleader was all part of a memorable experience for me.
It is very common for children to not want to get up and go to school in the mornings, but for me it was the opposite. I looked forward to waking up and going to school to see what it was for me to learn that day. Not only did the teachers teach profoundly but they also taught with fun. There was never a dull moment.
I never got bored with learning. Sometimes my teacher would put on a learning game for us to engage in so the learning material could be better for us to remember and that would just make us want to engage in class even more. I thought this was very intelligent to do because kids have short attention spans so if you can find something engaging then that was perfect.
Some of the teachers were stricter than others, but I believe that was out of genuine love and them wanting to see us have a bright future for ourselves. In addition to me, all my siblings attended Blackshear Elementary School, and they each had similar experiences.
One of my sisters said, “I wish I can go back and relive those days.’’
You may wonder, well, what was so special about that school?
Well, she now sees all the students that she used to be in the class with now getting married, having kids, becoming entrepreneurs and starting careers. And all of this was implanted from all the teachers, administrators, and counselors that instilled something special into them.
Indeed, my eldest sister is now on staff at Blackshear, working with scholars in the classroom and her 3-year-old daughter, Gabby attends Blackshear now.
The school was also very cultured back when I went there 10 years ago, and it is even more cultured now. I say this because as an African-American I think it is very important to have representation for the students and someone that the children can relate to.
A lot of times students just need a teacher who understands and just gives them a little bit more love. Sometimes children just need a representation to show that it is possible for them to grow up and be a successful Math teacher or just be a successful African-American and to handle it with grace.
Miss Bailey is a sophomore at San Jacinto Junior College. She plans to earn her bachelor’s degree from Texas Southern University and eventually become a lawyer.