Mr. Grant Hightower, Reading’s new Director of our METCO program, has truly hit the ground running in taking the initial steps to strengthen even more a vibrant program that serves as a model for surrounding communities to observe and learn from. His immediate past experience puts his staff of one (himself) in the unique position of being able to make a well-deserved, immediate impact. For the past 4.5 years, Grant served as METCO Academic Coordinator for Wellesley Public Schools, and in a similar capacity at Germaine Lawrence School in Arlington. Prior to his public school work, Grant coordinated 4 Group Homes in Hyde Park and West Roxbury which dealt with mentally and physically disabled adults. Grant was one of 25 applicants for the position which involved a comprehensive vetting process with several rounds of interviews. Grant got interested in the field of helping young people navigate the challenging issues of growing up with purpose from his own tumultuous start, his consequent desire to help young people navigate their formative years and his passion for human service. Right out of college, Grant was a teaching assistant in special education at Wellesley High School where he was the first person of color to deliver their Valedictorian address. His particular joy was in guiding METCO students through their four high school years helping empower their scholastic and humanitarian growth. They manifested that empowering by handling and resolving a serious racial issue which surfaced during those high school years. While much of the work Grant engages students on requires a heavy emotional investment, in his program there is always space for fun. He spoke fondly of a time at work where a student engaged him in a STEP competition, and it ended up turning into an entire room of students and teachers learning the moves the student made up. “The students don’t know I’m still relatively young so I know some of the moves they use and when the student challenged me everyone became hysterical when I was hitting the moves on time and with precision. What was fun about it was seeing the camaraderie between the students and I in those moments of vulnerability, and when other teachers joined in, the students really felt like they belonged. I’m pretty sure the kids used that routine in their Thanksgiving Game Pep Rally that year too, which was fun to watch. We try to keep it light when we can.” To Grant, life is always a learning experience where he feels we should learn from our mistakes by taking positive action the next time a similar situation materializes. We should be open to learn from our failures, never do anything that puts other people in jeopardy and always look for the positive impact of an action in a new situation, regardless of how small it may be. He’ll have plenty of opportunities practicing this belief overseeing METCO in all but one of Reading’s Schools: RMHS, Parker and Coolidge Middle Schools as well as Joshua Eaton, Wood End, Killam and Birch Meadow Elementary Schools. To be able to coordinate METCO activities in 7 Reading Schools, Grant prioritizes and completes tasks by their significance, understanding the issues at hand and building trust with the students and their parents in handling them while being firm and fair. As the only person covering Reading’s METCO program, he can set the schedule barring an unexpected and significant intervening development. As you can imagine, transportation management in coordinating student pick-up and drop-off consumes some of his time. Grant’s near-term goal for METCO is to strengthen the relationships of METCO with school educators and staff, parents, the business community and most importantly, the students. He is incorporating a parent group into a non-profit organization to bring families of Boston and Reading closer together to accomplish this goal. The emphasis is on partnership with the whole community in understanding what diversity is all about and to collectively move forward. Grant feels that Reading’s METCO program is uniquely blessed with a tighter feeling of family where the community is closer and very successful in promoting students’ academic and social needs. Grant would like to see Reading continue to build its successful METCO model as an example for the whole country in how diversity and equity work together in promoting a successful urban/suburban education for all. More communities adopting Reading’s ever improving model is the highest form of praise. It is happening now as other communities come to Reading asking how they might build a successful METCO model of their own combining a quality education with the equal opportunity to obtain it for all students. All involved parties from teachers to staff to parents to community leaders, organizations and local businesses need to buy into it as it goes beyond normal school hours and requires a total community effort. Grant plans to increase our school system’s notably progressive support for racial harmony at the upcoming MLK Birthday Celebration this January with the Middle School Choir performing and the possibility of a dance team comprised of both Boston and Reading resident students. Reading’s MLK Birthday Celebration at the Performing Arts Center is a well-attended event involving the active support of many organizations in the community, featured speakers and a concluding sing-a-long. Reading has been honoring MLK’s birthday for years. In today’s world information spreads with the speed of social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are among today’s media vehicles to disseminate information. They will be the first choices of Grant to make Reading and many other communities aware of what Reading’s METCO is doing now to promote an equal education and collaboration for all students who want it. Grant has a Bachelor of Arts degree from American International College and a Master’s in Education from Endicott College, majoring in Organizational Management. He lives with his wife Chanelle in Methuen and four children evenly divided with 2 boys and 2 girls; Sevoi, Lydia, Solenne, and Lenox who range in ages from one to eleven. Grant would like the Reading community to know that he’s available to meet them whenever needed and expresses his appreciation to all who have welcomed him into our community. He looks forward to the opportunity to get to know everyone more closely as he expands on his METCO efforts and is extremely proud to represent the town and the organization in the pursuit of supporting all of our students.