30-Year-Old High School Principal Urges Troubled African-Americans to be Patient

Thirty-year-old Gemar Mills is a principal at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, NJ. In an interview with Maria Lloyd, Principal Mills discusses how he overcame adversity to be the young achiever he is today.

Principal Gemar Mills

by Maria Lloyd

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking with the youngest school principal I’ve ever met. Gemar Mills, 30, is a principal at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in crime-ridden Newark, NJ. Born and raised in the struggling city, he narrowly escaped a plethora of opportunities to destroy his life as a teenager by exerting his time and focus on athletics.

Today, he has achieved more at the age of 30 than some have achieved in their entire career. At the age of 22, he began his career as a high school math teacher and managed to acquire a 70 percent standardized test pass rate after only three years in the position. At the age of 25, he served as the Department Chairperson of Mathematics. In just one year, he brought the department from functioning at 17 percent to 26 percent. In two years, he was promoted to Vice Principal, where his achievements caught the attention of school administrators inside and outside of New Jersey. After one year of being a Vice Principal, the community urged him to interview for his current role, in which he successfully landed the job. In the past 18 months, he has acquired a slew of awards/accolades from many reputable organizations including: NBC, Newark Public School, CNN, etc. He’s currently authoring a book titled The Turnaround: 180 Days of Change, which will be a resource for educators to take advantage of his ideals and initiatives that have proven to be successful in his career.

When I asked him who he looks up to, he cited his mother — who had him at the age of 16 and raised him in the projects by herself — and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Both individuals had a choice, yet sacrificed their own dreams in order to build someone else’s dream,” Mills stated via email.

Excerpts from the conversation are transcribed below. To listen to the entire interview, click here.

On his ultimate goal: 

My ultimate goal is to build a legacy. When I die that my name will live on. The things that I’ve done for my culture, for my people — it’ll live on. Decisions will be made based on things that I’ve done to empower my generation and generations to come. 

On his advice to troubled peers:

It’s one real word that they have to really take heed to and that’s to be patient. I think patience is a virtue for all African American males and females. If they can be patient, then things will fall into place.  Because oftentimes, poor decisions are triggered by one’s inability to wait. So, at 15 years-old, they want the money now. So, they’re willing to do anything that they have to in order to improve that status at that point and time. 

Click here to listen to the entire interview with Principal Mills

Maria Lloyd (@WritingsByMaria) is the Business Manager for the Your Black World Network and Dr. Boyce Watkins. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and an advocate of dismantling the prison industrial complex, increasing entrepreneurship, reforming education, and eradicating poverty. 

61 Responses to 30-Year-Old High School Principal Urges Troubled African-Americans to be Patient

  1. If there is any hope for the black american community as a whole, the YOUNG will be the ones to save it.

    Old blacks are out of touch, too biased by the past, and have no vision for the future except getting their next social security check.

    • Newark Publik Skools NoMo'

      Wow! How loaded is this comment? You mean to tell me the ones that have had to endure the injustices before, during, and after the civil rights movement have made no contributions toward the youth of today? The youth of today have had to learn from the old, wouldn’t you agree? To say that old blacks (your words not mine) had no vision for the future negates all the good that followed from each generation thereafter. You’ve just undermined the efforts and achievements of all our ancestors on down. You might want to reconsider this statement you made…Normally this would have been ignored or overlooked but today a different path was followed. Peace be unto you!

      P.S. You can’t know where you are going until you know where you have been.

  2. With so few black men in the teaching profession, great story. Much respect to Mr. Mills, keep up the good work.

  3. I’m so extremely proud of this young man and he’s doing wonderful things for the school and the city of newark.

  4. These types of stories help inspire us…and our youth. He does not have the fame and fortune of some of the rappers or the pro-athletes…but he is doing something of value to a lot of people.

    We need to see more of these type of men who are doing positive things to help our communities….not more of the foolishness coming from some of the nutty RAPPERS …. “club brawlers” …or grown men acting like clowns who do nothing but offer a bad influence.

  5. Gemar Mills, youre already a legend!


    These are the type of brothers, that we need to admire; not these sc(rappers) and hip slop (hop) artist.

    He has something for your mind, body and soul…THE TRUE TRINITY!!!

  7. This is a wonderful story. There is also a dynamic young principal in Richardson Indpendent Public School District, right outside of Dallas. His name is Mr. D. Spiller. He was just 30 or under 30 when he obtained his position about 7 years ago…he could be a wonderful contact for up and coming younger principals.

  8. I am priviliged to witness his effective work ethic daily! He was destined to be an educational leader, because he executes it so eloquently! Proud to be on his team!

    Mr. Cornelius Whitaker
    Crisis Teacher
    Malcolm X Shabazz High School

  9. There are no words to express how i feel about this Article it is BEYOND WORDS. PEACE and LOVE!!!

  10. I am currently the Vice Principal at Maloclm X Shabazz High School. I would be remissed if I did not not comment on this excellent story. Mr.Mills has become the face of change and a beacon of hope in the city of Newark. Students are no longer trying to prove themselves worthy of gang affilaition, instead the students are holding coversation of graduating from not only high school but college as well. The things that the students were able to accomplish in the short amount of time that Mr. Mills has been principal is simply short of Amazing! Keep pressing on brother, beacuse you have an army followers that believe in you! “Greatness has its place at Malcolm X Shabazz High School thanks to Principal Mills.”

    Faheem Ellis
    Vice Principal
    MXS HS

  11. Wow! What a wonderful young man, I am extremely proud of you Mr. Mills. I have two nephews that attend Malcolm X Shabazz High School
    and I am grateful that you are their role model. Continue great success!


  13. I am proud of you my young beautiful African brother but in all you do make sure that you include our African history. Professor John Henri Clark one of our foremost Historian said,that when he went to see brother Arthur Shomberg who founded the Schomberg collection, he told himm to go home and learn the history of the enemy and it will help him to learn his own.Give the legacy of African history to the children.

  14. Excellent and tributes to a strong mother who raised her child to be successful.

  15. TGBTG:-) Kudos to you Principal Mills and other administrators trying their best to make a difference.

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  29. J.David Duckett

    Thanks for this article. So many times, stories of this kind are over looked.
    Keep pushing forward my brother.

  30. Exellent piece!! Now will our fatnecks invest in us as the facebook founder did with his gift of 100 mil to our schools.. where are yall black fatnecks?..Do yall care bout yur own folks? Haven’t heard of a large donation to educate us from our black fatnecks, as I keep hearing from Joos and white fatnecks…Hotep

    • Newark Publik Skools NoMo'

      Thats really not fair. How many black fatnecks do you know with bread like that, sir? Thats high tech/social media money. Not many of our affluent entertainment icons have long money like that. And if they do, they’re taking it outside the US to people who really need it. Besides, if you knew what really happened to that money you would not have made that statement. I have one hundred million reasons to believe that Newark youth are not better off since that check was cut. For starters, only certain schools saw that money based on their need. You also have to consider how that money was managed. I, for one believe that money was not managed well. So if the children of Newark received the benefits of this money, why is there is more crime in the city? Why aren’t there more job opportunities for recent graduates…or for anyone with a high school diploma…still? We’ve also had a large number of school closings in the last five years, no? Why are school positions like drug and alcohol counselors, social workers, attendance counselors, and truancy officers (to name a few), the vital resources that our kids need in this time and age, being cut due to fiscal reasons. Yes, all closed public schools have been replaced with charter schools more or less but without these services that the public schools once offered. Some did benefit from these monies, I just don’t know, as a whole, if it was truly the youth that did the benefiting. Ya dig!

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