South Bronx high school teacher returns to Mich. to pursue law degree

First-year Wayne State University Law School student Shawn Blanchard's life story illustrates just how much one person's actions can positively impact the lives of others.

Blanchard spent the last five years as a high school math teacher at the Holcombe L. Rucker School of Community Research in the South Bronx Hunts Point neighborhood. While there, however, he did a lot more than just teach trigonometry. Blanchard was a strong force in leading the math department to rank in the top 5 percent of New York City schools within the small school network in the South Bronx. He also encouraged students to start a student government and co-founded Men of Majesty, an organization dedicated to mentoring at-risk young men at Rucker. He even opened his home to an Ann Arbor, Mich., teenager he had mentored as an undergraduate, bringing him to New York and seeing him through high school. That young man is attending Morehouse College on a full scholarship this fall.

"Being able to mold the minds of rational yet somewhat stubborn teenagers is very rewarding," Blanchard said. "They are impressionable and yearning to find their place in the world. Providing them with a means to find that place and options for the future, and being a tangible role model, makes my heart leap."

According to Blanchard, he was inspired by his Detroit Mackenzie High School counselor, whose attention and guidance not only encouraged him to graduate, but also inspired him to earn a degree from the University of Michigan and to pursue a career helping young people the way she helped him. "Her assistance had such a positive impact in my life that I made it my moral duty to return the favor to students who may need a similar push," he said.

Now, Blanchard is extending his reach by attending Wayne Law so he can use his law degree to help others in his hometown community.

"I believe education is the catalyst for enabling better options in life for all people," said Blanchard, who earned a master's degree from City College of New York in 2009. "I need more knowledge and leverage because I aspire to provide a high level of assistance to a wider community. I chose Wayne Law because it gives me the opportunity to be right back in the community that raised me. My decision to enroll at Wayne Law also was solidified by the Law School's impressive track record for helping lawyers find employment opportunities in Detroit."

He added, "I am interested in pursuing business law, intellectual property and education policy law. I believe this combination of legal studies will enable me to better understand government and the creation of legislation, allowing me to have more of an impact in fostering a better Detroit. I love my city and I am glad to be back."

Blanchard, who aspires to one day become mayor of Detroit, has received national acclaim for being a positive influence on Rucker students. He was awarded the Holcombe L. Rucker Founding Member and Legacy Award, nominated for People magazine's Hero campaign and GQ magazine's Better Man Better World Search, and featured on ABC News, NY1 News, in the Daily New York News, and recently interviewed for the website of the Today Show ( for his service within the South Bronx and Harlem communities.

He recently was offered a book deal by one of the country's leading publishers that will highlight his experience as a mentor and teacher in the South Bronx, specifically detailing his role as co-founder of Men of Majesty, his decision to take guardianship of a struggling high school student, and the parallels of his own coming of age to those he now mentors.

Published: Thu, Sep 22, 2011