By: Marquise Mcfadden
You can feel the presence of Capitol Hill’s Dean of Students, especially when he thunders through the hallway, moving scholars from one place to another like a linebacker hungry for a sack. Mpumi Masimini has an exciting story to tell. Prior to working at Chavez, he attended Howard University, and was the Dean of Students at Phelps Senior High School. He has been working with kids for 11 years, and has worked with Chavez scholars for two.
But it all started with his childhood dream of making it to the NFL.
“I didn’t apply myself as much as I could have in school,” Masimini said. “I had a big focus on sports and that took my mind off of school. It wasn’t until I got to college when I learned how to balance school and sports.”
Masimini’s parents were an influence to his success growing up.
“My mother was a heavy influence to my success because she always taught me to do my best,” Masimini said. “My brother, Themba, also influenced my success because we were both competitive and I found myself always trying to outdo him. He was my best friend, we were close, we were a year and a half apart and he was always there to motivate me.”
Like his brother, Masimini also played football. As a teenager, he said he wanted to be a professional athlete.
“I really didn’t think I wasn’t going to college,” Massimini said. “My mother made us believe college wasn’t an option.”
But when Masimini started playing football, he realized he had options.
“I never played football until I got to high school,” he said. “I was all DCIAA (District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association) as a 10th grader. I started getting scholarship offers when I got into the 11th grade.”
By the time Masimini was done with high school, not only did he have options, but he had achieved his dream of being a professional athlete. When Masimini finished college, he signed his first professional contract with the Washington Redskins.
“After my time with the Redskins, I spent some time with NFL Europe,” he said. “Last, I played arena football.”
After he an injury, he got back on his feet by transitioning into inspiring young people with childhoods similar to his own. A friend told him there was a job opening at Chavez, which happened to be for a Dean of Students.
According to Masimini the problems that schools face today are a shortage of teachers, lack of parental involvement, and funding.
“Schools don’t get parents involved in things and they don’t have enough money to run schools,” he said.
Masimini went from not seeing himself going to college, to inspiring young people to follow their own dreams. He said that a song which defines his life is “Survivor” by Beyonce, because he said he
“made it out of the ‘hood.”
“My biggest piece of advice for students would be always challenge yourself,” Masimini said. “Don’t be scared of success, and never take your opportunity for granted.”