Rev. Dr. Daryl L. Horton is an APIE Board Member and Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Austin. He has more than 20 years of ministry experience, and is currently a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) and the Baptist Ministers Union of Austin and Vicinity. He has served on many nonprofit and community boards in Central Texas, including Austin Habitat for Humanity. Rev. Dr. Horton earned a Doctor of Ministry from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth. Through serving on the APIE board, he would like to gain new insights into Austin ISD’s connection to the greater Austin community. Rev. Dr. Horton hopes to promote innovative solutions to current challenges.
Q: Tell us about your journey to the APIE board.
ㅏ: It’ll be quite a short story. I was introduced to Dr. Cathy Jones and we had a great conversation. She gave me information about what APIE does and what the organization stands for and asked if I was interested in joining the board. I am a native of Austin and a graduate of AISD, of LBJ High School. I was very excited about their mission and the work they are doing with diversity and equity and am a big fan of education and young people.
Q: Why do you think the work APIE does is important?
ㅏ: The value I see in APIE is that we’re going beyond the normal curriculum and things that are in the classroom and reaching out to students who have traditionally been left behind or not had the resources they need to be successful. I like the different programs at different campuses that APIE supports, like the real estate program that introduces students to different professions that are available and gives them access to those professions.
I also appreciate the tutoring and mentoring that walk alongside these programs to help students be successful. APIE programs are also a benefit to the families; as we strengthen the children, we strengthen the families.
Q: How does the faith community intersect with the work that APIE does?
ㅏ: Throughout the faith community, one of the things that churches have been doing is to offer tutoring and mentoring to students. At Mount Zion, we actually had a ministry called PIE, Partners in Education, and they provided tutoring once a week to students. The young lady we had who was giving guidance to students was actually a teacher. She had no problem serving as an advocate for students and families and worked to bring resolution to issues.
I know a number of churches that offer tutoring services. There is a program called Education Connection that a number of churches support. We reach out to kindergarten to third-grade students and help students read and improve literacy. I see that our values overlap a lot. We both want to make sure our students are prepared and provide those wrap-around supports. Even though the goal of the faith community is to have a good spiritual foundation and a love for God, we know if students don’t have a good education, that could impact their spiritual life also. We believe we can walk hand in hand to support our children.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you see in education in the coming years?
ㅏ: I really think the pandemic and distance learning provides huge challenges for our students, and also for our teachers, principals, and administrators. We are having to learn on the fly about how to best educate students from a distance as long as the pandemic remains or anything of this nature where students can’t spend as much time in the classroom.
Unfortunately, through the pandemic, a lot of challenges have come to the surface. With distance learning, if you don’t have Wi-Fi, or a laptop, or family support, learning becomes very challenging. The pandemic has uncovered for us that there are a disproportionate number of students in the community that don’t have those things we take for granted.
Technology can also be a challenge. We have to think about how we can use it to help students to learn. Technology is such a big part of students’ lives and affects how we communicate. It affects every aspect of our lives and we are struggling to learn how to best use it. We have to find a way to use it that helps students and not hinders them.
Q: What initiatives would you like to see APIE implement in the future?
ㅏ: I’m still learning about all the work that APIE does, but if I had to have an answer, I would love to see us venture more into vocations and professions that students may not often think about. I know some of our schools work with the fire department and medical fields and I wonder if there are more vocations that give students insights into non-traditional fields.
I know this is Austin, and we are a tech city, but I would want us to do some research and keep an eye on where Austin is going and what trends and vocations we could support.
Q: What is something that has given you hope or joy during these past few challenging years?
ㅏ: There are a few things, but what really gives me hope and joy is looking at the coming generation of young people and their boldness and courage to speak out about social issues and things that concern them. It’s been so amazing that we have what we call the perfect storm—the pandemic, racial issues, confrontation between police and certain communities—and it’s been amazing to see 20 and 30-something year old people sharing their voices and having dialogue to discuss how we can get around issues and why they still exist. Their involvement in social and civic issues really gives me hope.
The second thing is the way that the faith community has responded these past two years. This has been a challenging time for the church because we are used to having a building where people can come to worship. We have had to adapt, but Mount Zion has done a great job adjusting. The senior members in our community have learned how to use Zoom and YouTube in order to worship from home. We’ve learned to be proficient online so the pandemic doesn’t stop up from living out our faith. We’ve seen that every generation has a capacity to learn and adapt and do this together.
We’re also coming up on one-year from the winter storm last year. We had a meeting with other faith leaders from the community, and it was so amazing to be in a room with them and talk about what caught us off guard last year and how we can better take care of our community in the future. The pandemic and winter storm opened our eyes to the broader sense of community. We have to think about not just taking care of ourselves, but also taking care of the broader community. We have to learn to work together so everyone can have a chance to survive.
Q: What advice would you give to a student or family that is struggling right now?
ㅏ: First, I would tell them don’t be afraid to ask for help. One of the worst things we can do is suffer in silence. I would encourage them that whatever help they need, whether academic, financial, or counseling—whatever it is you need—please don’t be afraid to seek help because there are people and resources to help them.
The second thing I would say is to never give up hope and never stop trying. I think hope is the one thing that keeps us moving forward, and recognize this too shall pass. In the midst of the storm it consumes us, and we think we’ll never see our way out of it. But I would encourage families to look over their history and look at the histories of other families and our school district and they will see that there are so many others that endured similar challenges. If they are people of faith, I would tell them to rely on their faith and not to lose hope. I would say keep reaching out to people around you, keep pursuing their dreams, and the sun will shine again.
Q: Why is it important that nonprofits like APIE to take part in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work?
ㅏ: All of us grow up with certain perspectives and you don’t know what you don’t know until you are exposed to it. We learn that we become better people with more perspectives. Highlighting these different perspectives helps people see through the lens of their co-worker, or their students, or board members, and helps them see what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Diversity and inclusion help to build stronger culture; it helps us grow closer together and understand that we all share things in common, but we don’t have to let the things that are different divide us. We can appreciate the differences and appreciate each other more. I encourage us to continue to do it, to celebrate everyone who is part of our culture.
Interviewed by: Mary Hausle, P-TECH Program Research & Project Manager, APIE