MNPS Voices: Carlton Boleyjack

MNPS Voices: Carlton Boleyjack, Chemistry Teacher, Hillsboro High School
Posted on 04/14/2022
Carlton Boleyjack in chemistry classroom

Jobs for data scientists are plentiful, and they tend to pay well. But this STEM position, like most, suffers from underrepresentation in minority groups.

Carlton Boleyjack is trying to change that. C. Boleyjack in chemistry class

Boleyjack, a chemistry teacher at Hillsboro High School, is working hard to increase his students’ exposure to STEM careers inside the classroom and out. His classroom efforts for his standard and honors chemistry classes include hosting experiential learning activities and virtual engagement opportunities. Students are able to meet and interview community doctors and engineers.

Earlier this year, students were treated to a virtual engagement with Dr. Clarice Phelps, a 2003 Tennessee State University graduate, who was the only African American on a team of scientists who discovered a new element on the periodic table. She was part of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory team that discovered element 117, Tennessine, in 2010.

“This was a great moment for my students, especially minority females,” Boleyjack said. “I wanted students to see this was someone I attended class with at an HBCU in Nashville who made an international discovery and is now an internationally renowned chemist.”

Boleyjack, a serial entrepreneur, founded the STEM Forward NOW youth program through his nonprofit organization, Excellence in Motion. STEM Forward NOW hosts free STEM workshops that include guest speakers from internationally known businesses in the tech and science industries.

Speakers have come from NASA, Amazon and the National Society of Black Engineers. The workshops include a hands-on science project and are held at Nashville Public Library’s Bordeaux branch on Saturdays. The workshops are well attended, with average participation of 25-30 students, ranging from elementary to high school.

Boleyjack, a self-described “blerd” (which blends the words “black nerd”) and single father to a tech-inspired teenager, feels like his work is a calling to help his community.

“The underrepresentation in STEM fields is due in part to lack of exposure. The few black students who are pursuing careers in the STEM field is because they know someone who is currently working in a STEM field,” he said. “We honestly don’t know these careers exist because we don’t know what we don’t know.”

Boleyjack, a graduate of MNPS’s Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, credits his love of science to his first African American male teacher in eighth grade at Meigs Magnet Middle School. Boleyjack understands the importance of representation in the classroom; he said his teachers’ influence can be seen through him in his own classroom.

If being an entrepreneurial science teacher wasn’t enough, Boleyjack is also a vocalist. He is one of the founding members of the Hume-Fogg Blue Notes Show Choir.

Boleyjack also has spent some of his downtime writing as a guest columnist for the USA Today Network, which includes The Tennessean in Nashville. His most recent opinion piece on the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol earned him an invitation to chat on The Tennessean’s “Tennessee Voices” podcast.

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