Armaad Jamaal Eubanks MA ’16

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In many ways, Armaad Jamaal Eubanks MA ’16, has been his own harshest critic, and at times his own worst enemy.

The Madison native is a Special Education teacher with the Madison Metropolitan School District, splitting time between Wright Middle School and Sennett Middle School. Today he is a few short weeks away from his second advanced degree in Education. But he is honest about the challenges he’s faced along the way, especially managing his own expectations of himself.

“I made a bunch of excuses,” he says. “I didn’t take any ownership. Once I learned how to change my thought-process and take ownership, that made all the difference.”

His time at Edgewood College, and especially with faculty in the School of Education, has shaped a positive future, fueled by time and space to reflect on who he is and what he offers.

Eubanks graduated from Madison West High School in 2002 and had his sights set on college. “I always knew I was going to college, but that’s where it stopped. Go to college, have fun, play college basketball…”

He enrolled at Alabama State University, a historically black university, for two years. But he didn’t play basketball there. He transferred to Huntingdon College, after meeting with the coach to talk about playing and achieving that goal. But he was in for a bit of a shock.

“When I transferred I went from a school that was pretty much all black to a small, private, Methodist school. I was the only black student in the History Department. I lost confidence, I ‘lost my voice,’ I didn’t raise my hand in class, I didn’t speak in class, I sat in the back and took my notes and left. I didn’t have many friends outside of the basketball team. It was difficult.”

Basketball became the refuge, but the clock was ticking.

“Once the time started dwindling, when your eligibility runs out, I started to think ‘now what? What are you going to do?’”

It was an unpleasant encounter with a professor that provided a spark and the answer.

“I was told by one of the faculty that there was a good chance I wouldn’t graduate. But I have a competitive nature. I probably should go back and thank that woman for telling me that because it fueled me to work harder to finish up and make sure I did graduate.”

After earning the B.A. in History from Huntingdon, Eubanks returned to Madison and worked with at-risk youth at the Dane County juvenile shelter home. He then transitioned to work as a special education assistant for the Madison Metropolitan School District. That led him to the College in pursuit of a teaching certification.

But many of the insecurities remained.

At Edgewood College he initially pursued a teacher certification, not necessarily a Master of Arts degree. After his mother pointed out he was only two classes shy of an advanced degree in Special Education he recalls with a laugh, “I’ll never forget the conversation…I told her ‘why would I do that, so I could be the dumbest person in America with a Master’s degree?’ But that was the way I viewed myself. Since then, that view has changed, because I have done well.”

Today his message for young people facing challenges – whether external or internal – is simple.

“There are two types of people in those situations: the ones who are going to use those hardships and difficult times as fuel to motivate them to do better, to work harder, and to keep grinding to accomplish certain things. Then you have people on the flip-side who make a million excuses, and use it as a crutch for why things are the way they are. It’s your choice in how you internalize those hardships.”

When he’s not in the classroom he is often speaking to groups of young people with his message of #FuelOrCrutch, encouraging them to ‘look beyond tomorrow.’ Two of those young people are especially important to him.

“Having daughters, I want them to see what I’m doing now, versus what I have gone through, because children emulate what they see,” he says. “If they see positivity and a work ethic, that’s what they’re going to gravitate to. That’s what I want to make sure that they see.”

“In December 2017, I‘ll have my second Master’s degree. That speaks volumes about what I can do, and what I will do. And for me the biggest piece is, my kids get to see it.”