Trice meeting President Barack Obama
At 15, Trice was arrested for selling crack in Philadelphia. A decade later, Trice is proud to have completed his second year of teaching 4th-grade at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in North Philadelphia. His life—quite literally—has taken a 180-degree turn.
“When I was in 4th grade, my younger brother passed away,” said Trice, sharing the trauma of that loss and others. His mother lost custody of Trice—along with an older sister and another younger brother—due to her addiction to drugs. Trice was raised by his grandmother, whom he describes as very supportive. Yet the Germantown neighborhood where he was raised influenced his actions and choices. “I was seeking validation from my community and environment, which turned me to the streets,” said Trice, who was failing almost all his high school classes due to lack of attendance. “I wanted to make money so I could live the lifestyle I wanted to live.” He also grappled with embarrassment about his mother’s addiction to drugs.
Trice didn’t meet his father (he was in prison when Trice was born) until he was a teenager and decided to visit him. He’s serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. “My father was wrongfully convicted,” said Trice, who has been working tirelessly to free him.
So how did the 25-year-old educator—the product of an inner-city, impoverished environment—become a role model to children being raised in similar surroundings? Trice attributes the beginning of that shift to the power of mentorship, along with strong faith and spirituality.
After being arrested as a teenager, he was placed in two juvenile holding facilities: the Youth Study Center and Vision Quest. After a few months, he was sent to Saint Gabriel’s Hall, a residential program of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for adjudicated delinquent males (14-18) in Audubon, Montgomery County. He stayed for about 15 months and obtained a GED. It was there that he met Randy Logan, then the assistant dean of students and former Philadelphia Eagle (a strong safety on defense from 1973 to 1983). Trice calls that relationship life-changing. “He was my first mentor,” said Trice. “He was the first person to tell me never to feel like I’m on an island all by myself; that if I ever need him, no matter what time of day – he would answer the phone for me.” Logan kept his word. The two have stayed in touch over the years.
Logan, 68, of Norristown, was raised in Detroit, Michigan (also an inner-city environment). He says he was fortunate to always have the love and support of his parents. Logan attended a high school where music, entertainment and the sounds of Motown were a major influence. “I attended the same high school as Smokey Robinson (Robinson graduated years before) and the lead singer for The Dramatics,” remembered Logan, who pursued his passion for sports and later his desire to support and mentor at-risk youth to lead more positive lives.
Trice says he initially feared attending Saint Gabriel’s, thinking it would be awful. “It turned out to be the best thing for me,” he said. Not only did the relationship with Logan steer him in a positive direction, the experience also proved to be an academic awakening. His strength and ability in math and science became apparent. “Math always came naturally to me,” reflected Trice, adding that he received the proper training and skill set to move forward. Interestingly, his favorite teacher at Saint Gabriel’s was Janice Logan, Randy’s wife.
Trice, who now resides in East Falls, continued his education at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) where he obtained an associate’s degree in middle school education. He then earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Howard University.
Since becoming a teacher at Bethune Elementary, he has seen lives transformed. By sharing his own personal tragedies and triumphs, he has observed his students blossom. “The students need our love and support,” said Trice, who feels he’s providing a platform for them to shine and chase their dreams. “I’m able to share my story and you can see the immediate impact.
“I want to capture the students’ imaginations. The only way to educate is to first build a great relationship.” Trice’s drive to mentor and nurture students to believe in themselves has gone beyond the classroom walls.
In an effort to give back, in the summer of 2018, Trice returned to Saint Gabriel’s where he taught math, science and Algebra II. He also started an after-school entrepreneurship program at The Lenfest Center. It was met with such success that this fall, Trice will no longer be teaching 4th grade at Bethune; instead, he’ll be teaching a class there in entrepreneurship for kindergarten through 6th grade. A novel idea, perhaps, for elementary age students. But Trice is happy to bring the subject to the inner-city school, where he believes such lessons and inspiration should be instilled from an early age.
“Ultimately, it’s been a struggle for students to come to school every day and be excited about coming there,” said Trice. “I do a lot of storytelling about my own life. What I’ve learned is that students are more interested in how they can change their lives today.” The hope is that the class will give students a platform to create opportunities that they dream of. “They can create business plans and different outlets to share with their families, peers, the community,” he said.
“They want to be rappers, basketball players and football players, not just because they love the sport or the music, but also because they want to make money and help their families,” he continued. “They realize that their family is impoverished and because of this, they want to help.”
Trice acknowledges the importance the school community plays in a child’s life—particularly among those who have experienced loss and whose parents are not part of their lives. He understands this pain and lets the students know that he and the school community are there to support them.
Trice also understands a thing or two about being an entrepreneur. He launched two businesses: Following Greatness, an online store that sells inspirational brand shirts, hats and sweatshirts and True Vision—created with fiancé Antoinette Williams, a juicing business to promote healthier lifestyles.
Although Trice knows the impact he is making in the classroom, his commitment to mentor and positively influence youth has a broader reach. He ultimately plans to attend law school so he will be equipped with the proper training to advocate on education policy. He also aspires to one day open a private school in Philadelphia.
And Trice is honored to be involved with the Obama Foundation and one of its initiatives: My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Alliance. According to obama.org, “The MBK Alliance focuses on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.” His affiliation with the alliance began just before attending Howard University. He was involved with the CCP’s Center for Male Engagement (funded by the Department of Education) and his success story had garnered national attention. “One day I received a call from the White House,” recalled Trice who has met President Barack Obama several times. Trice will be working for the foundation this summer to mentor young leaders. It’s an opportunity he feels blessed to take on.
Trice has also gained confidence in his oratory skills and can frequently be found on black male educators’ panels speaking about youth engagement and other topics. Such programs are sponsored by non-profits, schools and community organizations. Trice says he has grown to embrace literacy, public speaking and writing, particularly when the subject is close at heart.
There are frustrations, Trice acknowledges, with all the demands in today’s world that a classroom teacher must meet, such as extensive lesson planning while adhering to core curriculum. But the reward is in the bigger picture. “Lesson planning is important, but being a role model is more important,” he said.
Randy Logan couldn’t be prouder of all Trice has accomplished. “It brings a smile to my face and tears of joy to see the path Quamiir has taken,” he said.