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News 2 > Global Student Prize - Finalists > 2023 Finalists Global Student Prize > Zaire Simmonds

Zaire Simmonds

19 Jul 2023
United States of America
2023 Finalists Global Student Prize

Zaire’s route to becoming a top student teacher has been littered with obstacles. As a first-generation, low-income, Black male student born and raised by a single mother in the Bronx, New York, he has experienced financial obstacles, discrimination, and racism. However, he has also persisted and overcome every obstacle despite these difficulties. Today, Zaire is a leader, activist, and student teacher who has made a great impact on his community and those around him.  

In elementary school, Zaire had a very challenging time due to home disruption and family mental health issues, making it hard for him to connect with the lessons. Countless nights struggling through homework meant that he was held back one grade. However, Zaire managed to turn his situation around by role-playing at being a teacher, bringing textbooks home and developing his own lessons from them – pretending to teach as a way to learn the material. As things started to improve for him at school, he was also able to make a significant impact on his fellow pupils by serving as a “student teacher” for seven years during middle and high school, supporting 6th- to 9th-grade math classes and eventually co-leading a class.  

At school, despite there being no other Black male students in leadership positions, Zaire volunteered for various roles (including Chairman of The Principal's Advisory Council and Student Ambassador) and founded the school’s Black Student Union. This was the first time an all-Black student executive board had been established, and it gave students who hadn't previously held leadership positions the chance to do so.   

After countless hours of student teaching, and experience in Guatemala helping to construct a village school, Zaire became the NYC Department of Education's youngest employee at age 19 – as program director for the NYC Men Teach summer fellowship and Early Pathway consultant for NYC Men's Teach and Educators Rising NYC. Zaire has also served as an ambassador and recruiter for men of color to become teachers in NYC public schools, and currently serves on a student council for the NYS Department of Education. He has now started an educational organization called Aspiring Educators with the goal of enlisting more teachers of color and offering as many resources and networking opportunities as possible.  

With the Global Student Prize funds, Zaire intends to help BuildOn – a charity that uses service and education to combat poverty and illiteracy. The money would be used to send students to assist in the building of a school in a developing nation and to purchase building supplies and textbooks. These school buildings would provide for a bigger student population by opening more classrooms and making class sizes smaller so that eventually, students can be in a room with their intended grade – as well as opening up higher grades for many developing countries.

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