Little Miss Mae.
That’s what they called my grandma, Dorothy Mae Hasty, during her first year at Edward Waters College in 1936 because she was the youngest girl in her dormitory. She was the eighth of nine children born to Tom and Sarah Hasty in the segregated small town of Dunnellon, Florida. There was no high school for Black children in Brooksville, so her parents sacrificed greatly so that she could go away to school. Armed with her parent’s sacrifices, and a scholarship from the African Methodist Episcopal church, Dorothy attended Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida for high school, graduating in 1939. She then completed a teacher training program at Florida A&M College―now University―until she earned her bachelor of science in education in 1946.
“My access and opportunity within my own educational experience is inextricably linked to my grandma’s success”
I remember attending an event hosted by Teach for America when I was an undergraduate senior at The University of Pennsylvania. In what would be one of her last public appearances, the late former Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools, Arlene Ackerman, shared something that always stuck with me. An audience member asked her about how we can move forward in improving public education, and she shared that, “this is really a conversation about value. How much do we value the Black and Brown students in our district to improve their experiences?” This stuck with me because my own story was rooted in a belief of better opportunity. It drove the desire of my Floridian and Georgian families, who moved north during the Great Migration in pursuit of upward mobility free of the segregated south. The desire for Black and Brown students to have equal opportunity influenced my parent’s decisions to teach, practice school psychology in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and work in labor relations with the Illinois Education Association for over 75 years collectively. And it is the foundation of the work that I do each and every day rooted in love, value and agency.
As a young Black woman from the segregated south, two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) nurtured my grandmother’s dream of educating children. In fact, they’ve given all students, not just Black students, a place to be their authentic selves; a place to become a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer or an agriculturalist in an environment that affirms their brilliance and their existence. I did not attend an HBCU for undergrad, but my access and opportunity within my own educational experience is inextricably linked to my grandma’s success and the work of these institutions. Two generations later, my vocation is to empower Black students by providing access & opportunity at Google and in the broader tech industry. Each day, I work towards providing my students with a safe, loving and structured environment where they can learn, grow, thrive and be in community with one another. Our nation’s HBCUs have been a blueprint for providing love, value and agency for millions of students since 1837.
“My own story was rooted in a belief of better opportunity”
I often wear HBCU crewnecks to the Google Chicago office. Howard, Alabama A&M, Fisk, Florida A&M, North Carolina Central; I wear each of them with pride. I am often asked if I am an alum of said school. I share that I’m not but that as I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors, I am also standing on the shoulders of the storied institutions that educated them. I am proud to be a beneficiary of this legacy and to bolster the tech pipeline with HBCU students. If we are serious about equity and inclusion within the tech industry, it is imperative that we partner with HBCUs, our African Diaspora culture-keepers, to, quite literally, create the future. Because of my grandmother I can. Because of HBCUs, we all will.
Victor Scotti, Jr. is a graduate of Morgan Park High School in Chicago, IL. He continued his studies at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. He has been working on education equity and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Google since 2013. He is the Founder & President of the Scotti Scholarship Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit scholarship fund for deserving Black undergraduate students in the United States. Victor is also a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. On weekends, you are likely to find him in a new city trying out a brunch spot. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.
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