Where They’re Headed: James Barker ’20

The history major and education studies minor is participating in City Year Denver, mentoring, tutoring, and supporting students.

Having completed his Haverford history major and education studies minor, James Barker ‘20 is ready to pay his education forward. He is now working full-time as a member of the Denver, CO, chapter of City Year, a nationwide education organization that provides mentors to schools often lacking in support resources for their students.

“That means tutoring, hanging out with the students at recess, and so on,” Barker said. “I won’t be a teacher with my own classes, but rather someone who is there to support the faculty, administration, and students.”

Having spent the past two summers teaching middle school students through the Breakthrough Collaborative, an education nonprofit focused on equity , Barker applied to the job to continue to build one-on-one connections with students.

He credits the small classes he experienced as a student in the Bi-Co with preparing him for his new position by promoting his critical thinking, participation, and listening skills.

“Listening, not just hearing, is an incredibly important skill, and something that many students are not taught,” said Barker. “I’m very lucky that I was able to develop that skill because of the classroom environments I’ve been in at Haverford and Bryn Mawr.”

Barker additionally credited the Bi-Co’s Education program as opening his eyes to a great deal of systemic and structural inequalities in the American education system. “I hope to take all that I have learned in my education courses into my work with City Year, where I can hopefully continue to build upon it,” he said.

His time at Haverford was colored by close student-faculty interactions, and he is especially thankful for the mentorship he received from Associate Professor of History Darin Hayton, his thesis advisor, and Bryn Mawr Lecturer Kelly Zuckerman, whom he cites as the driving force behind his decision to pursue a career as an educator.

“She has taught me so much about what a teacher is and can be, how to create safe and welcoming classroom environments, and how to create strong, positive, and lasting bonds with your students.” Barker said.

His current position is the first step on his road to his long-term goal, getting a master’s degree in school counseling, and eventually becoming a school counselor. His experiences through the Breakthrough Collaborative have shown him that he enjoys building personal connections with students, rather than teaching in a large classroom setting, and his current job will allow him to gain further experience doing so.

City Year will give me a unique opportunity to work in a school but not be a full-time teacher with my own classes, lesson plans, and curriculum to stress about,” said Barker, “Instead, I will get to focus on working one-on-one with students and being an adult who can support and listen to them, which are two jobs that line up better with my own particular skill set.”

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.