Diondre Ouzts’ Journey to Serving His Community as an Educator

After a sports-related setback in high school, Diondre Ouzts found a new passion for empowering the youth in his community through education.

When he learned he could no longer play football during his senior year of high school, Diondre admitted to losing his motivation for academics. His grades suffered as a result, and eventually, he stopped attending school. Diondre however maintained a strong desire to have a professional career, so he enrolled at the Goodwill Excel Center after his mother shared her experience as a graduate of the program. The Goodwill Excel Center is a tuition-free adult charter high school operated by Goodwill of Greater Washington that awards industry-recognized certifications and high school diplomas — not GEDs — to adult learners.

During his time at the Goodwill Excel Center, Diondre developed a passion for teaching and working with youth. He became interested in tutoring pre-K students after hearing about The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship Program. “My friends Trevon and Ricardo [gave] me the rundown on what they do to impact lives in the neighborhood and help children in schools,” Diondre recalled. The Leading Men Fellowship is a high impact program that creates opportunities for young men of color and increases representation in the field of education.

After he graduated and received his diploma from the Excel Center, Diondre was eligible to apply and was accepted into the Fellowship Program. As a Leading Men Fellow, he participates in a year-long, residency-style experience where he provides evidence-based literacy support to pre-kindergarten students, while receiving robust coaching and professional development–gaining valuable experience! On a typical day as a Fellow, he worked with students to improve their literacy skills using phonics, singing songs, and reading books. According to Diondre, not only did the children teach him how to be patient, but they also affirmed his decision to pursue a career in education.

On July 28, 2021, Diondre received The Goodwill Industries International Kenneth Shaw Graduate of the Year award for his hard work and commitment to helping his community. He plans on returning as a Senior Fellow for School Year 2021-22. He looks forward to working toward his paraprofessional certification as a teacher’s aide in the classroom–and continuing his education to become a middle school teacher. His long-term goal is to start a non-profit organization focused on education to help young children.