Derrick Bass is the Dean of Students for 6th and 7th grades at YES Prep White Oak. Prior to working at YES Prep, Bass served as a school administrator for several years at turnaround schools in Chicago. Bass has a B.A. from Chicago State, a Masters in Education from National Louis, and is a former Chicago Teaching Fellow. He developed his love for education after teaching in a financial literacy and entrepreneurship program at a Chicago high school.
Why YES Prep?
I reached out to a good friend who was a Student Support Counselor at Southeast. She told me about the mission and vision and connected me with one of her sorority sisters, a School Director, who was hiring for a Dean of Students position. I spoke to West School Director Ashleigh Fritz on the phone for an hour and a half about the organization and the position. I booked a flight that day to tour the campus and interview for the position. I didn’t get the position, but I was hired to be a sophomore Grade Level Chair and seminar teacher. I’m grateful because that position allowed me to learn more about YES Prep and its model before diving into a leadership position here at White Oak.
How did Fritz inspire you to apply to YES Prep?
At the time, I was at a crossroads in my career. I was considering going back into business because I’d lost my way in education. It had become more about the adults than the kids. But what Fritz told me about the organization reinvigorated me and reminded me why I was drawn to this work: providing kids with opportunities.
Why have you stayed at YES Prep for three years?
There’s still the challenge of lessening the achievement gap and getting students to and through college. YES Prep does a good job of bringing those two things together at every single campus. All staff members are focused on that mission. And when I think about the programs in place at YES and the support provided to students, I know this is the best place for me to fulfill my personal mission and the organization’s mission.
You ran the Brotherhood Summit this year. Why are summits like this important for our students?
We have 16 campuses, but it can be tough on kids in affinity groups to see that they have support outside of school. They only see their teachers and peers. The summits bring all students from across the system together to develop a sense of empowerment and a network of support outside of their school.
Can you speak to how the Brotherhood Summit in particular is important for Black male students?
Traditionally, black male students have struggled academically, socially, and emotionally. To come together for a day, and to hear that the struggle is a part of your life journey is so important. As a student, you learn that you have adults and other peers to lean on, to have a conversation with, to hang out with, to get something off your chest. It gives you a sense of brotherhood and accountability.
If you were speaking to future Black teachers, what would you tell them about YES Prep?
I think right now, as an organization, we have the opportunity to really impact students from disadvantaged communities. Your presence as a Black person can play such an important part in the trajectory of students’ lives. We say often that students need mirrors and windows: windows they can look through to see a model of success and mirrors that reflect them and their background. As teachers, we can play that role and give them a vision of excellence and success.
Do you have advice for people applying for positions at YES Prep?
If you are truly passionate about this work– developing youth emotionally and academically– then there is an opportunity for you here in the classroom. There’s an opportunity for you to work on curriculum and assessment, if that’s important to you. There are opportunities to be developed as a leader and for you to hold leadership positions on your campus or system-wide. You have to take ownership of your development, but the opportunities are out there.
Interested in a position at YES Prep? Reach out to Ana.Wolfowicz (at) yesprep (dot) org.