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Cleveland Hill speaks at the Town Hall Discussion: The Crisis in Education February 1.

Town Hall Discussion kicks off African American History Month

February 2, 2017

Nicholls alum and former Dean of Education, Cleveland Hill, kicked off the 2017 Nicholls African American History Month celebration on Wednesday morning in LeBijou Theatre with his segment, “A Town Hall Discussion: The Crisis in Education.”

After introductions from both Sociology professor Deborah Moorhead and Nicholls President Bruce Murphy, Hill opened up conversation about the “the achievement gaps” within education, how essential K-12 teachers are to the future of society and how to deal with effects on education from poverty.

“I have held many titles in my life: sergeant first class, doctor, coordinator, dean, director, dad and pawpaw,” Hill said. “The one title that really appeals to me, that I really love, is teacher.”

Students, administrators and locals filled the theatre to listen to Hill’s discussion on the crises within education, both the positives and negatives.

Parental and teacher involvement were main arguments within Hill’s discussion towards bettering education amongst kids growing up in urban and rural areas.

Improving academic environments, Hill explained, doesn’t take tons of money to change. Citizens working together and being open to figure out what works best for other citizens in society is all that is really needed.

Other key points during the segment opened up the floor for audience discussion. Topics such as who should be funding education, if education today is considered to be a right or a privilege and the education exclusion of 75 percent of the country’s population created interesting discussions.

A large audience engaged in Hill’s discussion by sharing their own experiences and remarks. Among the crowd were Eugene Dial, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services, Valerie Francis, assistant professor of music at Nicholls, teachers from Max Charter School, Nicholls students and President Murphy.

“A school, whether it be a college, university or K-12, should be a place teachers and students want to go to everyday,” Hill said. “If a student or a teacher dreads going to school, then academic achievement gap will only grow.”

Hill ended with a few quotes from Niccolo Machiavelli, and expressing his ideas on democracy and education in America.

“The one sure way to keep us from making progress is to not have educated citizens,” Hill said. “If you do not have educated people in society, democracy will die on the vine.”

It was fitting for Hill to jumpstart African American history month at Nicholls. From Moss Point, Mississippi, Hill enrolled at Nicholls in 1968 and became the first African-American to wear a Colonel uniform. He finished his playing career at Nicholls in 1972 as the all-time leading scorer and all-time leader in rebounds.

After graduating from Nicholls and spending three years in the military, Hill taught at East Thibodaux Junior High School before coming back to Nicholls as an assistant basketball coach.

In 1985, Hill became a professor of Education until 1993, and then later became Director of Student Teaching until 1997.
From 1998-2006, Hill was the Dean of Education at Nicholls, officially retiring from the University in 2006. Today, Hill continues to be a visible member of both the Nicholls and Thibodaux community.

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