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Improving the Lives of At-Risk Students in Houston: Meet Desmond Pittman

See how this Walden alumnus is fighting for change in his Houston community by providing after-school programs for at-risk youth.

Growing up in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, Desmond Pittman saw little opportunity to break away from the cycle of poverty and crime that plagued his community. Fortunately, he was able to stay out of trouble by participating in local sports programs, advancing through high school to college on a life-changing trajectory. Inspired by his experience and driven to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to make a difference in the lives of kids from similar backgrounds, he embarked upon his lifelong learning journey at Walden. After earning his MS in Education and Education Specialist (EdS) degrees, he enrolled in the Doctor of Education (EdD) program to further his impact as a teacher and Black leader in his Houston community.

Desmond was awarded Walden’s Educator for a Day grant, unlocking $5,000 in funding. With this grant, he created a mentoring program for his students and used the remaining funds to support his school’s “Man Up” campaign, which aims to counsel young men to manhood through determined decision-making.

Watch how Desmond is tackling important social issues and transforming the lives of at-risk youth in his community.

WALDEN: How has your time at Walden impacted the work you do in the Houston community?
DESMOND: I stand with Walden University’s mission and vision through the work that I do in Houston. Together, we’ve tackled literacy development in low socioeconomic communities for a decade. For nearly the past five years, Pittman Sports Association—a youth sports league—has partnered with Dominion Preparatory School & Child Development Center in the historic Houston neighborhood of Acres Homes. As program coordinator, my role is to grow the community center into a full-day recreational site for individuals age 4–22, extending transportation services to Northborough and the greater Greenspoint area.

In our youth program, nearly 100 kids are setting their own expectations and exposing their peers to new ways of thinking. They’ve really taken the bull by the horns and understand that—aside from being cool kids or good athletes—being model students, citizens, and children is what will make them leaders of the future.

WALDEN: With your Walden grant, you developed a weekly mentoring program that includes college visits and a trip to The African American Library at the Gregory School in Houston. Why is this so important to your Houston community?
DESMOND: When I’m working with a lot of these kids, they remind me of myself growing up—how hard they are, how defensive they have to be. It wasn’t anything that we created in the community—it was already waiting there for us. These communities give us three options: You’re going to rap or entertain, you’re going to sell drugs, or you’re going to play sports. I see in their eyes a look of hopelessness, and that is something that bothers me, that keeps me up at night, and really fuels my mission to instill hope into the young generation. And there is no better way than education, because that is what became the light at the end of the tunnel for me. Our most precious resource is the leadership of Black males in the community. We want less criminals and more CEOs—bottom line.

WALDEN: What has your experience as a lifelong learner at Walden been like?
DESMOND: My experience with Walden has been life-changing. It has been a pleasure completing two graduate programs through an educational plan that at times felt like it was written individually for me. The workload and sequences were never too much. Plus, when what you’re learning about is what you’re passionate about, it becomes fun. My love for Walden University runs deep.

WALDEN: What was your experience like working with Walden faculty?
DESMOND: All of my instructors were so understanding and compassionate, and I’d like to specify my absolute favorite: Dr. Gloria Kumagai. She is one of the best humans I’ve ever met in my life. The spirit of dedication she has when serving her students is something that provokes a feeling deep inside me. For years, her guidance made me feel as though she was more than an instructor, but a guardian. Meeting and spending time with her at two of my academic residencies still brings a smile to my face. Walden is fortunate to have her.

WALDEN: What are your goals for life post-graduation? Is there anything else you’d like to share?
DESMOND: I plan on continuing what is not a race but a marathon toward social change in Houston communities. Dominion Preparatory School & Child Development Center director Tonya Dixon and I are extremely proud of our kids and want to express gratitude for their focus on education first, second, and last.

Explore more inspiring stories and Acts for Good by members of the Walden community here.

Become a Lifelong Learner at Walden University

Walden, an accredited university, offers online degree programs for just about every stage of your own lifelong learning journey. One of the major benefits of earning your degree from Walden is convenience. Online learning gives you the flexibility you need to manage the demands of your busy life while earning a degree on your schedule. Walden’s MS in Education (MSEd) degree program offers the latest teaching strategies, new technologies, and an array of specializations from which to choose from. If you’re looking to earn your EdS or complete a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree, Walden can help you deepen your mastery of the skills you need to impact learning outcomes in your school, district, or community.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a suite of education degree programs online, including an MS in Education program and a Doctor of Education program. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,