By Ryan Velez
A skilled, high-powered lawyer works his way up from a humble Brooklyn upbringing to corporate law, then decides to leave it all behind to work with children in need. Sounds like a good movie plot, if a little overdone, right? Turns out that this tale is all reality, and the story of Malik Russell is a heartwarming one that we all could stand to hear, as reported by the NY Daily News.
Malik Russell’s childhood isn’t the type that we associate with success, being raised by a single mother who was a first-generation immigrant from Jamaica. However, Russell managed to beat the odds by scoring scholarships to elite schools, which propelled him right into the world of corporate law. However, eight years ago, he quit this lucrative career to give back through education. Currently, Russell is the principal of Success Academy Cobble Hill Middle School and has been nominated for a Hometown Heroes in Education award.
Reflecting on his life change, Russell told NY Daily News that the journey wasn’t easy, but was certainly worth it. As a lawyer “I felt uncomfortable in my clothes, like a clown in a fancy suit,” Russell said. “Now being a principal I feel more comfortable in my own clothes.” Before getting to Wall Street as an investment banker, Russell attended law school at Georgetown University.
Part of what made him remember his roots was a chance encounter with someone who wasn’t able to get out of that hard life. During a subway ride, Russell encountered a childhood friend, who mentioned that many of the old crew from that neighborhood were in dire straits, including trouble with the law. After hearing that one old friend was in prison and another was dead, Russell knew his lifestyle had to change. He would start as an assistant teacher then become a principal, but his latest accomplishment is his biggest yet as an educator.
The Success Academy Hudson Yards Middle School will be the fast-growing charter network’s first lab school where educators from around the world will come to learn and share ideas. “One thing that’s fueled me is that every kid deserves a great education and is able to perform at a higher level,” said Russell.