Michael Lowe, the head of Shelby County Schools’ new equity office. (Photo: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat)

Ray said goals for the initiative are still being formed and that he would host another event in a year to share progress toward those goals.

Gwin, the White Station High student, said he thinks more black male teachers will have the most impact.

“I had a black [male] teacher once. He was cool,” said. His friend sitting next to him said he never did. “He was someone I could see myself trying to be like.”

Kevin Woods, the lone black man on the district’s school board, agreed.

“Throughout my K-12 experience, I had several African-American male teachers,” said Woods, who graduated from high school in Bolivar. “Seeing role models that look like the student population… had a positive impact on [imagining] what was possible.”