Working toward his Harvard University law degree, Jon Wall wants to one day return to Wake County and address the disparities he sees within the county school system.
Q: You aspired to and accomplished some lofty educational goals after graduating from Knightdale High in 2008. After you left KHS, where did you go?
“After I graduated high school, I attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from there. I then went on to Harvard and received my graduate degree in educational policy and management.”
Q: What are you doing this summer?
“I am now working to get my law degree from Harvard but this summer I am working at a law firm in New York City.”
Q: There was a John Wall who served as a principal at some Zebulon schools a few years ago – are you related to him?
“I get asked that a lot but we are not related.”
Q: With acquiring a graduate degree in education and working toward a law degree, what is your career goal?
“My ultimate goal is to work as a civil rights attorney.”
Q: What inspired you to choose this profession?
“I suppose my inspiration was simply being a student in Wake County schools. When I was growing up, I attended Jeffries Grove Elementary and I then went on to Leesville Road Middle School. When I got to Knightdale High, I could see a big difference in my peers who seemed to be prepared for high school and those who were not. I saw there was a difference in the level of education received at schools west of Raleigh and those who attended schools east of Raleigh. I saw huge disparities in the schools in the county school district. I saw there was a better quality of education offered at some schools as compared to others. I saw the education that I received was denied to some of my peers in high school and the disparities reached all the way back to elementary school but it is just not in Wake County. The disparities are all over. When I was in college, I participated in an event at a convention center in Atlanta where we had students from all over the state participate. We had different stations set up. At one, you had students who took 10 basketball shots and then they had to tell you the percentage they made. At another, you had a simple written mathematical equation and the student had to read it and then tell us how they would solve it. We saw students who were at grade level and some students who were way below grade level. We saw eighth grade students who could not read a sixth grade prompt but then in other areas, we saw first grade students who were discussing a question dealing with economics. It really hit me hard. You actually see these differences manifested and you realize the disparities along racial lines.”
Q: You also worked beside civil rights leaders in Atlanta, correct?
“When I was in Atlanta, I was contacted by Lonnie King Jr. (whose dad worked with Martin Luther King Jr.) and a group of us helped start a charter school in Atlanta. It was in operation for one year.”
Q: Do you plan on staying in New York or returning to Atlanta? Or do you have plans to return to Wake County and work for change here?
“I definitely want to come back to North Carolina. I may even run for school board when I get back. There are definitely issues that need to be addressed here.”
Q: What do you say to people when you hear that the problems are not with the schools, but with the student’s homelife?
“You do hear that but those are also the same kind of issues that schools need to address. In fact, there is a lot of research on how a child’s home life affects their education and parents have to be informed early on about what they can do. You hear people say that once a child gets to middle school, it is too late to do much and you never want to say that anything is too late, but early, early intervention is critical. And diversity in the classroom is also important. I think Wake County has stepped away from that now but having students exposed to different languages and cultures is crucial. There needs to be racially diverse experiences for every child in the schools. It is proven that students perform better when they are in diverse classrooms. We need to work hard to make education the great equalizer it was meant to be.”
Correspondent Dena Coward