Jason Terrell, class of 2012, wearing a white shirt, posing with crossed arms

Jason Terrell '12

  • Major: Political Science

As a political science major at Furman Jason Terrell’s plan was to graduate, enter law school, and then go into public interest law. But as we all know, plans have a way of changing.

In the summer before his senior year he returned to his hometown to participate in an internship with the Urban League of Atlanta. Terrell was part of a team helping inner city high school students plan for college. “It was basically a college prep class, and I was an assistant director and teacher,” he says. “It was incredibly rewarding. That summer alone changed my whole trajectory.”

When Terrell returned to Furman that fall, a career as a teacher was beginning to outshine a future as an attorney. His mentors at Furman, Dana Professor of Political Science Glen Halva-Neubauer and Religion Professor Roger Sneed, encouraged him to follow his passion. And follow it he did. After graduation he declined a full ride to law school to join Teach for America.

As a young, black, male teacher in north Charlotte, N.C., Terrell felt incredibly isolated. When he discovered that only two percent of all of the teachers in the nation are men of color, he set his sights on changing that statistic. In 2014 he and his friend and fellow teacher Mario Jovan Shaw co-founded Profound Gentlemen, an organization that works to support teachers who are men of color through mentoring, professional development, and community engagement.

Currently, Profound Gentlemen has 125 members in four cities: Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Memphis and the retention rate for teachers in the Profound Gentlemen program is 95%, compared to 55% of men of color who are not in the program. “Teachers who are in our program are staying in the classroom longer, and I think a lot of that has to do with being connected with a community and a sense of accountability,” Terrell says. “You know you have other guys supporting you. You’re in this together, it’s almost like a family.”

In November of 2017 Terrell and Shaw were named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list of Social Entrepreneurs.