Man On a Mission
Published in Inside - Volume XI, No.6
"They will not know that I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind."
Mark Noizumi thinks of those words-'"from Sandra Cisneros' novel The House on Mango Street-'"every day when he looks at the picture on his apartment wall of Sugar Ditch, a community in Tunica, Mississippi. The Reverend Jesse Jackson has called Tunica "America's Ethiopia." Sugar Ditch is briefly described in Jonathan Kozol's book Savage Inequalities as a place where "people in the black community-'live in shacks by open sewers that are commonly believed to be responsible for the high incidence of liver tumors and abscesses found in children there." Noizumi-'"who is earning both a Master's of Education in Technology and Media and a Doctorate of Education in Education Leadership at TC-'"spent four years working in Tunica as a "doe-eyed recruit" (his own words) for Teach for America.
"I had a lot of ideas about how to change things, but I pretty much got stonewalled at every turn by administrators who were either worn out, cynical or simply lacked the time and resources to do more than survive day today," he recalls. "When our school was taken over by the State Department of Education, the conservator who was put in charge of the school told me that he didn't expect the school to ever get any better, and that I was wasting my time. I told him that if he felt that way, I didn't think he had any business being in education, let alone running a school district. That's when I realized that the best way to change things was at the policymaking level-'"and that I needed the tools to become a policymaker myself."
Noizumi-'"the son of a pastor and a librarian-'"applied and was accepted to TC (later receiving a Master of Arts in Organization and Leadership in 2002). He also talked his way into a job as Technology Consultant and Web Designer for the Office of Student Activities, despite having had minimal experience in either capacity.
"I basically asked them to give me a try and it worked out," he says with a grin. Eventually, he took over his computer programming instructor's position at Baruch College for a time, while fielding offers to create Web designs for several other TC offices.
From 2001-05, Noizumi also served as Treasurer and Vice-President of TC's Student Senate, helping to restart it, as well as revamp many of its processes, and launch several programs to improve student life at the College.
"It was really gratifying to know that instead of sitting around and being disgruntled and complaining, I was taking an active role to try to improve the organization," he says.
Today, Noizumi serves as Executive Administrator for The Campaign for Educational Equity at TC-'"an effort that he believes is Ground Zero in the battle to improve districts like Tunica.
"I wanted to be in a place where I could help address systemic problems on a policy level and that's what The Campaign is all about," he says. "It's especially exciting to be in on something like this just as it's all being put together."
Noizumi hopes to stay with The Campaign until he finishes his doctorate and then, true to his word, find a way to return to Tunica and finish what he started.
"My goal, in general, is to come to a place and hopefully leave it better for my having been there," he says.
So far, so good.