New degree leads to dream career for single dad

Anthony Alexander. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

Less than 48 hours after Anthony Alexander graduates from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a bachelor’s degree in applied communication on Dec. 15, he will begin his dream job as the dean of students at eStem Elementary School in Little Rock.  

“UA Little Rock has given me the tools I needed to get where I am now as dean of students,” said Alexander, 32, of Little Rock. “It’s an enormous honor to come right out of graduation and start a dream position. Because they were so impressed with my resume and the education I was receiving, in their words, they couldn’t help but offer me the position. Without my education, I would not have the future I have going forward.”

Alexander first started at UA Little Rock in 2004 after graduating J.A. Fair High School. He left in 2006 after learning some life-altering news.

“I had to drop out due to having a child on the way,” he said. “Of course, you don’t make any money at school, and I had to go make money. Two years after Anthony Jr. was born, his mother passed, and I became a single parent. He’s 10 now.”

Alexander always had a dream of finishing his education and making a difference in the lives of young people. It was that dream that led him to come back to school at UA Little Rock in spring 2014.  

“Anthony found a home in the Department of Applied Communication and started succeeding in his coursework,” said Dr. April Chatham-Carpenter, chair of the Department of Applied Communication and Alexander’s advisor. “He eventually switched to the online program for his major in order to work multiple jobs to support his growing family. Anthony is an example of a resilient and persistent student, who overcomes hardships to pursue his dreams. He is already paying it forward to other young people who need to be inspired to go after their dreams as well. We are very proud of Anthony’s achievements to reach his dreams!”

One of Alexander’s motivations for completing his degree was to show the importance of education to his son.

That is the reason I got back into school,” he said. “I wanted to show my son that no matter how long it takes, you can always finish what you started. I can’t preach the gospel if I don’t practice it myself. It’d be hard to tell them they need to go to school when I dropped out myself. My grandmother helped me out through school. She would watch him when I had to take a final or go to class.”

Over the past six years, Alexander has found his passion working with children in the Little Rock School District.

“I love kids. They fulfill my life. They give me a sense that I am working for a purpose,” he said. “It’s a new experience every day when you are working with kids. I like to think that I can help mold a kid into a direction that I could have had at our age. I don’t look like your typical educator, so they tend to latch on to me. The kids at the school I work at call me ‘Unc,’ because I became the uncle of the school.”

When Alexander was a child, he was raised by a wonderful single grandmother, Carol Alexander, but says he missed out on having a positive male role model in his life.

“When I was in school, I was a little class clown,” Alexander said. “I’d like to crack jokes and talk a lot. My grandmother raised me, so I didn’t have either parent. I never had a male role model try to guide me when I needed to be guided. I feel like a lot of our young men need that. Education is a women-driven field, so I think young men sometimes need an adult male to guide them.”

He’s a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and has found a mentor in Chatham-Carpenter.

“Dr. Carpenter was a great mentor at the university,” he said. “She’s met my oldest son since I’ve had to bring him to her office several times over the years. She has always been very understanding since I am not your typical student. We’ve always had great communication. She has been really great and fun too.”

Now Alexander and his fiancé, Leyonda Foote, have another son, Aceton, who will turn one the day after Alexander’s graduation.

“I’m a semi-professional rugby player, and I play on the U.S. Select South team,” Alexander said. “My fiancé complimented one of the photos I did for a rugby calendar. Since then, we’ve never been apart, except when I travel. It’s like it was meant to be. She’s always treated my son like he was hers. She helped out a lot too to keep me motivated and in school.”

In his new career, Alexander is looking forward to implementing new programs to help students learn and be more active.

“I’ve never the type to just stay stationary or complacent,” he said. “Dean of students is a couple of stages past where I was going to start at. I would like to move up in administration and add programs that could help students learn in the future and fun activities. I’m big on physical education. Maybe I’ll be a principal of my own school one day.”

In the upper right photo, Anthony Alexander will begin his job as dean of students at eStem Elementary School in Little Rock just two days after his graduation from UA Little Rock. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

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