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Cynthia Reeves | SBJ

2022 Men of the Year: Denzel Billy

Houston Independent School District

Posted online

Denzel Billy sees every day as an opportunity to influence someone in a positive way. From his former job as a Kickapoo High School counselor to coaching and volunteering, Billy endeavors to be a source of support and encouragement, particularly in the field of education.

“I have shown leadership by entering a workforce that was desperate for males, more importantly Black males,” says Billy, who was at Kickapoo for three years before recently accepting a school counselor position in his hometown of Houston, Texas. “I have shown up and immersed myself into the education world.”

He wants students to feel comfortable coming to him during what can be the sometimes turbulent teen years. Case in point: a student who was struggling to have a relationship with her father while also maintaining a healthy relationship with her other parents.

“I have encouraged her that we are responsible for our own mental health and well-being and as much as she would want to help, she matters more,” Billy says. “She marinated in those words and now is thriving while slowly building a relationship with her biological father.”

Billy was part of the Kickapoo coaching staff and also coached at the YMCA and through SPARC, a partnership of Springfield Public Schools and Springfield-Greene County Park Board.

“Coaching provides me another avenue to impact young lives through things that I love to do every day,” he says. “I have helped out and poured into those young children who are coming up. I have also been blessed with the opportunity to build relationships through coaching at Kickapoo. This is done outside of my job and gives me a good opportunity to get to know students on a broader level because I get to help them do something that they love.”

Billy hopes he’s an all-around resource for students.

“Being in the building and being a person of color in a white space helps influence students to know that they have a safe place. I am often available, and I want diverse students and students of color who may feel like an outcast at times to know that they can confide in me, and they can be their authentic selves in my office. It is vastly important for students to know that they have spaces where they can process their reality and be protected.”

Billy has taken part in Missouri State University’s Youth Empowerment Summit to help SPS students access college; is certified as a teen mental health instructor; volunteered at Ujima Language and Literacy; and was co-sponsor for Kickapoo’s chapter of the Student African American Brotherhood.

Shurita Thomas-Tate, an associate professor at MSU, has known Billy for six years and says she deeply respects his strength of character and commitment to education.

“Denzel intently listens to his students while firmly pushing them to be their best selves,” says Thomas-Tate. “Denzel shows strong leadership in this role, particularly in a time of much racial and political division. … He serves as a great role model to all students while challenging many misconceptions, biases and stereotypes by just being himself.”

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