About a Legacy of Leading

Ron Walker

Ron Walker’s journey to becoming the founder and director of the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) is the product of his life’s journey and professional experiences in education. The virtue of education was instilled in Walker through his parents, Solomon and Delores Walker, who grew up in the south during the Jim Crow era and did not have the opportunity for a quality, formal education. Ron’s father, a construction worker, did not have the skills to read or write, and, although Ron’s mother won a scholarship to attend college, the opportunity was denied to her. In spite of this, Ron knew that both his father and his mother were intelligent, with or without education. They wanted their children to have opportunities that they did not have.

Ron, the oldest of three, went to Lincoln University, a Historically Black College in Pennsylvania. After graduating, Ron became a middle-school teacher in Philadelphia. During this time two students, Wendell Holiday and Kevin Johnson, both bright and ambitious boys, triggered his interest in educational leadership and advocacy. Wendell was killed in a gang fight, a loss that affected Ron profoundly.

Ron moved forward as an assistant principal and then as a principal in the Cambridge Public Schools in Massachusetts. He is the former Associate Director of ATLAS Communities, a comprehensive school reform organization working with over 100 schools across the country in urban, suburban, and rural school districts.

During his time in Cambridge, Ron discovered that Kevin Johnson had been incarcerated for life on murder and drug charges. Walker and Kevin have corresponded ever since, and, in 2006, Walker spoke at Kevin’s GED graduation ceremony. This experience moved Walker so deeply that at the end of that month he started COSEBOC and soon dedicated himself to the organization full-time. COSEBOC is focused on transforming the narrative of boys of color; to discuss, learn, and develop solutions to critical challenges impacting boys of color. He remains steadfastly committed to high quality education for children, particularly boys and young men of color, and other underserved populations.

Recognition has come from many organizations, such as the Council of Great City Schools, Education Trust, Cities United, The Center for Law and Social Policy, Harvard University, and the American Public Health Association. He was also invited to attend President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Forum held at the White House. Ron has authored two publications on leadership and is featured in numerous education articles. He also serves on numerous boards that address community-based and education issues.

Ron attributes any success that he has gained to his unrelenting belief in God, the lessons taught by his parents, and the faith that his wife Toni, children, and grandchildren place in him. When asked about his hopes for the future, Walker didn't hesitate with his response. “My hope is that we will be able to create a national narrative that demonstrates that boys of color are innovators, creators, and game changers. They become those things through mentoring, community, and family support and when we aren’t working in silos, we will realize the potential of these young men. I look forward to the day when we won’t have to fight to get people to understand that.”

A fantastic father, family man, and community champion for educational equity are a few words I would use to describe Ron Walker. For over five decades, Ron has worked tirelessly to close the achievement gap for Black students with a specific emphasis on Black male students. Ron’s work anchoring the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) has transformed the ways schools think about educating Black and Brown boys.

-David C. Miller, Ph.D., Author of Dare To Be King: What If the Prince Lives?