Opinion: A Teacher Reflects on Her Former Student, Brandon Scott

Baltimore City Council President Brandon M. Scott, on the campaign trail in 2018. Photo by William F. Zorzi

I taught at Merganthaler Vocational Technical High School for 24 years and in Baltimore City Public Schools for a total of 36 years. I know a thing or two about promising students.

Sometimes, tragically, promise goes to waste when circumstance or lack of opportunity swallows it up. Sometimes promise is never even given the chance to flourish.

And sometimes, the stars align and a student goes on to fulfill their promise and do something that makes it easier for other students’ promise to come to fruition. That’s what happened in the case of someone who many of you know as Council President Scott, but who I know as Brandon.

From an early age, it was clear that his dedication to Baltimore would lead him here. At every turn, Brandon has exhibited unmatched passion, sincerity, and, most importantly, integrity. He’s done the hard work of bringing the community together and leading his neighbors.

I first met Brandon when he was in my class as a freshman at MERVO, and since then, I knew he was destined for great things. He represents the best of what Baltimore is and can be. His integrity, energy, and passion to make Baltimore better for generations to come make him exactly the leader Baltimore needs. Even as a student Brandon always stood up for what was right even if it caused friction with teachers who could not deal with a student who challenged the status quo.

A child of Park Heights, Brandon did everything that we ask young men in this city to do. He worked hard and stayed out of trouble. He went on to MERVO and got a scholarship to St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He was a student leader and graduated from St. Mary’s National Public Honors College with a degree in Political Science.

Then he did what many who leave Baltimore for college don’t do: he came back to serve his community. He ran mentoring programs. He coached youth sports. He formed the 300MenMarch Movement. And he served as a liaison between city government and the community. Service has always been Brandon’s purpose.

His work on the City Council is focused on tackling the biggest issues facing our city — from curing the gun violence epidemic that has taken too many lives to cleaning up City Hall so the people can have trust and faith in the elected officials that represent them.

Brandon often talks about how it was his mother who encouraged him to get involved and take action — telling him that if he wanted something to change, he should change it himself.

Then and now, I echo those words of encouragement. I’m cheering him on and am ready to stand with him to fight for his vision of a new way forward for Baltimore.

My generation continuously speaks about the day the next generation is ready to stand on our shoulders and take us to higher heights. But then when a young leader steps up, some say that it’s not his time and that he should wait his turn.

But there’s never been time for young, black men who are looking to lead a movement of change to wait. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers were all struck down at the height of their fights, before their 40th birthdays. Why should Brandon wait? No one told a 30-something year old Martin O’Malley, Bill Ferguson or Johnny Olszewski Jr. to wait.

Change has always been made by young leaders full of hope, promise, and vision. And change is what our city needs.

Brandon has a vision to lead our city to new heights. A plan to make our communities safer. A plan to invest in our children’s future, so they can realize their promise just like him. A plan to restore our faith in city government. A plan to shepherd us through a global pandemic and come out the other side a better city.

We owe it to ourselves and our city to let him lead us there. Not just because he’s qualified and will follow through on his promises — though he is and he will — but because it’s our best path forward.

I hear a lot about granting people second chances. I think it’s time to start granting chances to our young people who exhibit the best of our city. If we don’t, then we are continuing to tell them that no matter what they do, it will never be good enough. I think it’s time to grant Brandon Scott a chance to lead. It’ll be a chance to show our city — especially the next generation — that we believe in them and we believe in a new way forward for Baltimore.

I’m supporting Brandon Scott for Mayor, and I’m going to help him build a better Baltimore for everyone, because I know a thing or two about promise.

— LAURA PHILLIPS BYRD

The writer is a retired Baltimore City educator and Former President of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.