Middle school science teacher Tunji Adebayo was honored by Teach For America at Monday night’s benefit.
Science lessons set to rap music. Aspirations in envelopes pinned to the ceiling. And a commitment to live alongside students.
Tunji Adebayo, who teaches 7th and 8th grade science at Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter Middle School, was honored Monday night for his innovation and dedication at Teach For America’s “Celebrating Changemakers in Education.”
“Tunji’s dedication to his students is limitless, especially to young black males,” Lida Jennings, executive director of TFA LA, told the 350 guests at the Petersen Automotive Museum gathered for the group’s third annual benefit dinner.
Adebayo, 25, who was born in Nigeria one month before TFA was launched, is in his third year of a profession he hadn’t planned on. A TFA representative reached out to him while he was studying dietetics and nutrition science at the University of Georgia, and he’s never looked back.
“I’m staying in education no matter what,” he told LA School Report before receiving his award Monday night.
After his first year teaching and commuting into South LA from Long Beach, Adebayo moved to the neighborhood, around 51st and Vermont. For him, “It’s essential to live in the community,” he said.
He often sees his students in the area, particularly on weekends when he is at the farmers market, which is near a mall with a movie theater.
“It’s a blessing to live and understand some of their struggles on a daily basis. It makes it more real, to become a part of the community.”
The middle school, one of 12 operated by the Inner City Education Foundation, serves 264 students in grades 6-8, and 74 percent are African Americans, compared to 8.4 percent in LA Unified. The school’s student population identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged stands at 77 percent, the same percentage as LA Unified students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. And 13 percent have disabilities.
His commitment to helping other African Americans started in college, where he noticed that other “young black males didn’t accomplish what I did because the expectations and support weren’t there.”