(WASHINGTON) When it comes to paying it forward, a young teacher in Washington D.C. is at the head
of the line. This young classroom hero has returned to the school that gave him a step up to help mentor
kids from his neighborhood who are only a few years younger than he is.
“He’s literally walked in the same shoes as many of our students, so he has the unique ability to speak
into their lives and relate to them,” said Jonathan Powell, Dean of Students at Cornerstone School.
It’s a special little private school serving the community in one of the most violent wards in D.C.
“A lot of the schools around here aren’t great,” said Powell.
Many of the kids who attend this school are using the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program to cover
their tuition, the same program that White used when he was a student.
Michael White says that Cornerstone is known in a very rough part of D.C. for raising the education bar
and he’s happy to be a part of it.
“Being in the position to do what my teachers did for me back then is truly an honor and I’m just happy
that the principal and the leadership team here at Cornerstone would give me the ability to do that,”
“It’s huge to be able to envision yourself being successful,” said Powell.
The school has always been known as a safe haven compared to what happens in the surrounding
neighborhood. Michael remembers how scary one walk to school was for him as a teen.
“The guy pulls a gun out on me in broad daylight,” said White.
White was robbed that day, but he made it to school safely. Once inside these walls, Cornerstone kids
say they feel safe to learn.
“We know that this can be a safe haven for those kids, who don’t have any other place, where they can
consider safe, so much so there are kids who just want to come to school because they know they won’t
be in any danger,” said White.
Michael also helps keep Cornerstone kids engaged and off the streets. In fact, he’s coached two
championship basketball teams showing the kids it doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s where
“I know that it’s a good thing that they can look up to me and look up to other staff members and say,
this is the type of person that I want to be,” said White.