Elon alumnus helps youngsters envision their college education

President Leo M. Lambert and Sam Mason '10 teamed up to spur Washington 3rd graders to dream big about their futures.

Elon President Leo M. Lambert (left) reads to students in the Washington D.C. classroom of Sam Mason '10 (right).
It took Sam Mason ’10 some time to get here.

The leisure and sport management major was sitting in the Washington, D.C., classroom where he teaches third grade, watching the president of his alma mater read Dr. Seuss to his students.

It was something of a full-circle moment.

“I realized I wanted to teach when I was living in New York, working a desk job and feeling like there was something more out there,” Mason said. “It sounds cliché, but I didn’t feel like I was fulfilling my potential.”

Now, Mason teaches at KIPP DC: Heights Academy, one of the public charter schools in the high-achieving “Knowledge is Power Program” network.

KIPP has proven its ability to maximize potential. While more than 86 percent of students in its network are from low-income families and eligible for the federal free or reduced-price meals program, more than 90 percent of KIPP students who complete middle school go on to graduate from high school.

That sort of success has Mason, who heard about KIPP from a fellow Elon alumnus, feeling driven to become a better teacher.

“Everything at KIPP has been great,” he said. “I have a phenomenal support system that is helping me grow both professionally and personally.”

And though it’s a long way off, he’s also looking forward to seeing his third graders one day go to college.

“At our school we name our classrooms after colleges because we want to ingrain the importance of college into our kids’ minds as early as we can,” Mason said. “College is something that we start talking about from Day One, and that continues as long as they are with us.”

"As an Elon alumnus, it really means a lot that Dr. Lambert would visit my classroom," said Sam Mason '10, who teaches third grade in Washington, D.C.
Naturally, Mason’s classroom is named for Elon – something else that made university President Leo M. Lambert’s visit on Sept. 19 even more meaningful.

“The kids were so excited for Dr. Lambert’s visit,” Mason said. “I think it put a face to Elon and gave them something to remember about the university. It took whatever abstract idea of Elon that they had in their minds and made it tangible and real for the first time all year.”

Mason had emailed Lambert in July, hoping the president might have some time to stop by. While attending a meeting with the Association of American Law Schools in D.C., Lambert made sure to take Mason up on the invitation.

“As an Elon alumnus, it really means a lot that Dr. Lambert would visit my classroom,” he said. “It made me extremely proud and grateful to have gone to a university where the president is so accessible and caring about alumni after college.”

And now Mason has no questions about whether he’s pursuing the right career path.

“I am looking forward to becoming the most effective teacher I can be.”