College Advisor Carlton Collins works with students at Norwood High School as part of CYC’s GEAR UP Norwood. He connects them with resources and opportunities that guide them toward a clear plan for their lives after high school. In this month’s Youth Matters, he shares how he came into this line of work and why it nurtures his spirit.  

I recently caught up with an old friend from high school I had not seen in years. The conversation carried on for some time and I told her about my path into education and all the places it had taken me. Then she asked me a question I haven’t consciously thought about in quite some time:

“What made you so passionate about education?”

Funny thing is, when you are in the trenches with students you just constantly move and serve and give everything day-in and day-out; it becomes second nature. So when she asked the question it caused me to pause and simply smile. In that very moment I was 18 years old again. I was being handed Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, a recommendation from everyone’s favorite teacher in the high school. She was a white woman from Rhode Island who had a passion for spreading knowledge about African-American history. Though the book came from an unlikely source, it was one of the most influential moments in my life.

I tell this story because it makes me reflect on why I do what I do and who it is that I serve. I serve youth in my hometown of Cincinnati, OH. We at Cincinnati Youth Collaborative serve these students in a number of different districts, a wide range of ages, and in a rainbow of hues. It has always been about changing the trajectory of young people’s lives, much like someone did for me. It has always been about impacting the futures of those with promise, but with underdeveloped visions for their lives. It has always been about self-sacrifice and unyielding service.

It has always been about hope.

Carlton Collins, center, at his graduation from Morehouse College.
Carlton Collins, center, at his graduation from Morehouse College.

I think back and cherish where this passion has brought me, and I feel mighty blessed. I think of all the faces of the young people I have touched in one way or another, and I feel proud. Yet, I think about CYC and all of its advisors, specialists, and their incredible impact and I feel humbled. Because it is a recognition that I am a part of something so much greater than myself, that I am a part of a family of educators. Educators who, in one way or another, have dedicated their lives to helping young people realize their greatest potential. We are dream sculptors.

Carlton with USDOE
Carlton, second from left, meeting members of the Department of Education.

On this very day, I watched a young lady receive her full-tuition scholarship to Northern Kentucky University. I saw the joy and the relief in her eyes. Joy for the opportunity, that same opportunity that we at CYC were all given. Relief from the burden of wondering how she was going to succeed in life. This role, these students, these journeys are all part of an ongoing narrative that embodies what CYC stands for. I think of the work that’s being done year in, year out and the lives being transformed and I’m made to believe that God has a plan for the youth of Cincinnati. I am proud to be His tool. So when I’m asked that question again, I am ready to answer.

“I wanted to be a sculptor of dreams and a servant to the youth of my hometown, because it has always been about hope.”

Carlton, hidden in the back right, with  students at the YCC Youth Conference where he was a facilitator.
Carlton, hidden in the back right, with students at the YCC Youth Conference where he was a facilitator.


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