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Finding A Place In The Classroom

Finding A Place In The ClassroomTufts graduate Danny Wilcox has transformed his personal challenges into a career devoted to giving kids the best education experience possible.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.05.07] As a child struggling through the San Francisco school system, Danny Wilcox saw his athletic talent as his path to success. But when a college football injury derailed his goal of becoming a professional athlete, he found his true calling in the classroom. Now, as the Tufts graduate trains to become a school administrator, he seeks to spread the word about the need for equity in the school system.

"I had wanted to use my power as a professional athlete to rehabilitate my community," he told E-News in an e-mail interview. "Since football was out at that point, education seemed like the perfect solution."

Wilcox, a 2001 graduate of Tufts with a master of arts in teaching, is currently a principal intern at Boston Arts Academy-a pilot school that is the city's first and only high school for the visual and performing arts. He also interned there while studying at Tufts.

Despite his current success, the classroom wasn't always a positive place for a young Wilcox. He recalls the challenges of being bussed to school on the opposite side of the city and frequently getting in trouble for fighting and disrupting class.

"My experience with education is a rocky one, and it was not until I started to be recruited by major colleges to play football did I begin to take my moments in class very seriously," recalled Wilcox.

After high school, Wilcox attended Saint Mary's College of California on a football scholarship. In his freshman year, though, an injury prematurely ended his athletic career.

But Wilcox was not daunted. An assignment to help a San Francisco-area high school class create an online publication sparked an interest in teaching.

Following a professor's advice in his junior year, he applied to the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers, an organization based in Andover, Mass., that aims to "deepen the pool of talented minorities entering the teaching profession in our country," according to its website.

"At the institute, I saw the power that the people who were committed to education had," Wilcox said.

That experience prompted him to come to Tufts.

"I have always wanted to help disenfranchised youth," Wilcox said of why he came to Tufts. "It was a difficult decision to go to Tufts as a Californian, but I was and am completely pleased with my decision. The M.A.T. program was excellent in preparing me for the teaching profession."

Wilcox has taught social studies and humanities, and prior to his current position at the Boston Arts Academy, he spent a year helping found new schools in Oakland, Calif., Bronx, N.Y., and Seattle, Wash.

On Feb. 1, he spoke at Tufts as part of a social policy forum featuring education activist and author Jonathan Kozol, who recently published a book about the resegregation of America's schools called "The Shame of the Nation." Given his background, Wilcox shares similar concerns.

"We can't effectively end or reverse racism in schools until we address the issue in greater society," he explained. "Schools are simply a microcosm for society. They are the practice fields for the world of employment."

One key part of attaining that goal, says Wilcox, is choosing selflessness over self-interest.

"We have to, as parents, rid ourselves of the mentality that prestige is the end game, and do what is right for the world, and not what is best for us," he said.

For Wilcox, teaching is more than just a job; it's a special opportunity to improve lives.

"I don't distinguish my personal from my professional life," he explained. "I am always honored to be given the opportunity to do the work of teaching, learning and advising in schools."

Interview by Will Ehrenfeld (A'10). Written by Tufts Web Communications.

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