Dr. Gemar Mills is on a mission to put an end to the school to prison pipeline.
According to Because of Them We Can (BOTWC), the New Jersey educator is on a mission to open up schools in order to destroy the need for prisons. A Paterson, New Jersey native himself, Mills learned early on that education would play a vital role in his success.
School has always been a force in keeping him from heading down the wrong path and has been an anchor from some of the negativity he was surrounded by in his environment.
Upon his completion of high school, Mills went on to attend Montclair State University pursuing a degree in computer science. However, his lack of funding to afford necessary items like a laptop led his mentors to recommend education as another option.
Listening to the advice of those coaches and mentors, he soon switched his major to mathematics education and worked as a substitute teacher while in school.
Once he completed his degree, Mills went on to be hired as a math teacher in Newark, New Jersey where, within the first three years, he created tremendous growth among his students.
Not only was he successful as a teacher, but Mills also went on to become the department chairperson of mathematics at the tender age of 25. He then made history as the youngest principal of Malcolm X Shabazz High School at just 28-years-old.
“The speed and impact that occurred in that short period of time affirmed for me that my purpose in this life is to provide young people with a fair shot at achieving their dreams through education,” Mills said in an interview with BOTWC.
Throughout his tenure at Shabazz, Mills has been able to hone in on his skills. He’s been dubbed “The Turnaround Principal” after he transformed the graduation rate, culture, and retention rate at a school that many labeled as a lost cause.
Initially set for closure by the state, the school remained open after just a few years under Mills’ leadership. He not only was able to find the best method to teach students, but he also impacted the culture at the school where violence was the everyday norm.
Now, through his school, College Achieve Public Schools (CAPS), Mills has a goal of getting students through school and higher academia to obtain a degree.
“In most inner cities across the country, less than 11 % of the population earn a college degree,” he tells BOTWC. “That statistic, coupled with the achievement and wealth gap that exists between Black and white families, made it clear to me that our purpose at CAPS should be rooted in getting students into graduating from the top colleges and universities in our country.”
Since its first opening in 2017, Mills has now opened seven campuses of CAPS around New Jersey with two in Paterson, two in Asbury Park, and three in Plainfield.
“Through education, we can begin to correct the inequities that plague our communities and make our ancestors proud, knowing that their efforts weren’t in vain,” Mills told BOTWC.
Mills continues to smash ceilings where he serves more than 2,700 students grades K-9. He has plans to directly end the school to prison pipeline by opening as many schools as possible.
For more information on his schools, click here.