By Danae Reid
According to Forbes, Black men only make up 2% of the teaching force. This statistic, paired with the fact that 80% of start up businesses fail within the first 18 months, is enough to make a person question their dream.
However, Philadelphia native Anthony Samuels has defied all odds with the success of his childcare facilities, located right here in the City of Philadelphia. The first center opened in 2017, and is doing so well that a second center just opened. Curious on how he does it all, I reached out to Samuels to ask him some questions, and much to my delight, he was more than excited to talk about his endeavors.
Why do you think that the percentage of Black male teachers is so low? I doubt it’s a lack of interest, but maybe I’m wrong. I’m curious to know your thoughts.
It’s not common to see Black men interested in childcare. It may have something to do with the society telling us that we must solely use athletic abilities. Women are considered the “nurturers.” Black boys are rarely taught that they can be loving, caring and selfless as well. Surprisingly enough for me, I had teachers throughout high school tell me that I would be a teacher and I would always respond, “no way.” I remember vividly telling my one of my teachers, “I will never be a teacher.”
I’ve noticed that there are a surplus of daycares in the city of Philadelphia; what made you decide to start one yourself? Tell me a little about the backstory, how you chose the name, etc.?
A group of my friends and I came up with the name “Young With Options,” which first started as a brand/lifestyle. From the start, I understood that it was universal and stood for something bigger than just our friend group(young people were going to gravitate to it).
The opening of a daycare came about from one of my mentors. She was extremely successful in the child care business, and would shared pointers and experiences with me about her experience. That year, I began to surround myself with individuals that were making positive impacts in the community, and that’s what encouraged me to start my own business. Rather than coming up with a new name for the daycare, I continued with the Young With Options brand. My goal was to start an academic center for the youth that provided performing art opportunities, due to my background and passion for music and acting.
I saw that you just recently opened your second center, is that correct? Congrats!
Yes indeed! Surprisingly, a second daycare wasn’t in the plans until 2020, but with God’s blessings I ended 2019 strong. Co-owner Serena Haeuser and I opened up a second daycare, “Young with Options Academic Center 2″ located in Northeast Philadelphia at Cottman and Rising Sun Avenue. You can find out more information on our Instagram @youngwithoptionsac. We’re more than a daycare!
All day, you’re interacting with kids from different backgrounds, some with behavioral issues, with different economic backgrounds, etc… Knowing that these are the foundational years, how do you forge a sense of community from kids who are so much different from one another?
Although, it is tough and the stress levels that teachers experience do get overlooked, I love it! We’re taking on a variety of problems from many families, all with different backgrounds and situations. By caring for the lives and futures of these children, their experience becomes a part of us but that’s why we have the opportunity to make an impact.
We constantly ask ourselves, “How can we be a vessel to this family during their time with us”? Although behavior, mindsets, and attitudes that children develop are instilled at home, we know the importance of providing a safe and conducive environment during the eight hours that the kids are with us at our center. We encourage and teach love, positivity, and kindness. For us, it’s much more than just academics. Many of our urban children are taught to fight and to always be in defense mode. We see it as early as two years old. Many people will write them off as a “bad kid,” wand then they grow up believing it. Our job is to teach confidence, security, and trust… Letting them know that they are young with options and can do whatever they put their minds to.
In adjacent to running a daycare, you also make music? If you had to choose one, what would it be?
I cannot choose! That’s why it’s called young with options; go after everything you want in life and be sure to do it with a youthful energy. The music is what helped me gain popularity in the city and gave me the leverage to open up my business in the first place. My spiritual gifts are leadership, mercy, and administration; as long as I am inspiring, I am fulfilling my purpose.
The majority of families prefer their care sitters to be women as opposed to men, has that affected your business? And how might it be more difficult for a Black man to prevail in the childcare arena as opposed to someone of another race or gender?
People definitely gravitate to women in childcare. In addition to that, White owned businesses receive much more respect as well. Some things that I have experienced as a Black business owner would not have been done or said if a White man was the owner. And of course, as a Black man in childcare, I know my limits for my own personal safety. I do not change diapers, go to the bathroom with the children, and am never alone in my building without another female staff member to assist as a precaution.
I believe that we should encourage more Black men to get involved in the field of education. Representation is important, and our young Black boys need to learn from people that look like them and have similar upbringing. Last month, I spoke at a school and a student shared that he’d felt like an older White lady would not be able to teach him anything about himself; that stuck with me. We need to start bridging the gap.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.