Jarell Lee on Minnesota Public Radio

Princial Jarell Lee and MPR host Angela Davis

Ronald Ferguson, a Harvard economist, and Tatsha Robertson, an award-winning journalist, teamed up to write a book called, The Formula: Unlocking the Secrets to Raising Highly Successful Children, on how parenting can help shape happy, high-achieving children.

On October 21st, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) News host Angela Davis spoke with them about their book. During the hour, they were joined by Jarell Lee (at minute 26), Principal of KIPP Academy Chicago Primary, whose story is featured in The Formula.

Jarell has an incredible story of growing up in Cleveland, often homeless as a young child. Living in shelters didn’t deter his mother from raising him to focus on school, value hard work, read, and keep up with homework. He talks about memories of his mother presenting him flash-cards to learn new words or letting him know there would be no playing or watching TV until he read and finished his homework.

When asked how his childhood has informed his career choices, Jarell says, “I chose to be a principal because I had the experience of growing up in poverty… As a principal, I say this to every family I talk to and every teacher who walks into this building, as a principal, I believe it is my calling to help create a school and to lead a school for little black and brown kids who come from the same neighborhood as me so that they can be able to reach their full potential and to reach their dreams and to have access to all the things they need.”

Ferguson, one of the authors of “The Formula” credits Jarell’s mother for her relentless pursuit to figure it out as she went along, from visiting the Head Start center to see how the teachers structured learning or talking with Jarell’s teachers all throughout his schooling to make sure he was tested to get into gifted classes. She found allies to help her do the things she wasn’t able to, like finding a male mentor for Jarell, their church pastor. His mother remained curious about parenting, even before he was born, reading and asking questions to figure out the best way to raise him to reach his full potential.

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