Finishing college is a huge accomplishment for all students, but it’s even harder to do when you’ve got an infant to care for.
Wayne Hayer is a senior at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Back in September his wife gave birth to their first child, a little girl named Assata. The couple was thrilled to add to their family, but Wayne struggled to find a balance between being a father and husband, working two jobs, and finishing his degree in kinesiology.
Things came to a head one day when Wayne found himself stuck with childcare duty when he was supposed to attend an important mathematics lecture. Wayne was texting his wife in class in an attempt to schedule the next afternoon when he was busted by his professor, Dr. Nathan Alexander. When the professor heard what was going on, he didn’t hesitate to make an unusual judgement call.
“If that’s the issue, bring her to class,” said Dr. Alexander, later explaining, “Our goal is to instill leadership in our students. I want to be a model of that, and I think Wayne is a model of that. He was focused on his academics in spite of everything else he had going on.”
The following day, Wayne took his professor up on the offer and showed up in class with his baby in tow.
“I was apprehensive about it,” he admitted, noting that while he’d seen student mothers with their infants in class, he’d never seen another student father. “I had a book bag on and a baby strapped to my chest. I looked crazy.”
Wayne says he felt a bit apprehensive as he approached the classroom door, but as soon as he saw Dr. Alexander his fears melted away. Not only did the teacher welcome Wayne and his daughter with “open arms,” he even offered to hold the child so that Wayne could focus on taking notes.
Dr. Alexander held the baby in her infant carrier throughout his entire lecture, an action all of the students applauded.
“There’s a negative stereotype about African American men not being fathers to their children and a myth that most black people come from single-parent households,” Wayne said. “To see a young African American man do it was empowering for people to see. The image and symbolism were important in changing how we view masculinity.”
Classmate Nick Vaughn was so impressed with his professor’s actions that day that he snapped a photo and shared his thoughts on Twitter. Before long, the story had gone seriously viral.
“Not only did he teach the entire lecture with the child in his arms but also stayed after class helping those with questions about today’s lecture with the child still in his arms as seen in the pictures,” Nick wrote on Facebook. “It was this encounter that truly showed me the power and impact HBCU’s can have for the black community, for this professor to understand that life happens and sometimes there are just no ways around it.”
Internet users were quick to heap praise on Dr. Alexander for his sweet gesture, and while he appreciates the love he wants the world to know that the real message her is that we’re all part of a global community where helping one another is just the right thing to do.
“There’s an idea of what a student is and we don’t think about ways to support parents that are students. That’s where I come in,” he said. “Community matters. I want a world where Wayne doesn’t feel like he can’t get ready for his exam even though his child care fell through.”
Well done, Dr. Alexander! We love seeing teachers who break through the norms and help students succeed in innovative ways! Please share this story to encourage more acts of kindness like this one.
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