In his senior year at the University of Memphis, Richard Carranza wasn’t necessarily considering a career that involved working with students. But when he began to speak about the future with family friend Patricia Adams, something changed. Hearing Adams rave about her experiences as the School Operations Manager at Kirby Middle School sparked something within Carranza. He started thinking about his younger brother and the issues he faced in their neighborhood: “I asked myself, ‘Can I change the way my brother is being raised in a community with a lot of negativity? Can I make a difference?’ I just knew applying to work for Green Dot would help me make a difference.”
Making a Difference
Carranza recalls his own struggles and obstacles growing up in Memphis, but attributes life turnaround to a positive mentor, and is now committed to being a mentor himself. “I want to help students in Memphis get the education I didn’t get, and get the kind of mentorship I attribute to changing my life,” said Carranza.
Some of the most crucial moments for Carranza this year have come through his experience as a coach, particularly on the track team. Carranza worked with a team of five eighth graders and led them to the state competition for the first time in two years. At the state competition, his small team competed in four events, placing in the top five in half of the events.
While their accomplishments on the track field were important to him, building relationships with the students and encouraging their academic success was of paramount importance.
While the students on his state championship team are heading to various high schools throughout Memphis, including Green Dot’s newest, Bluff City High School, Carranza’s experience with them has cemented his commitment to mentoring students at Kirby.
In his first year working at Kirby, not only did he work full-time as the Office Assistant, but also as an assistant coach on the boy’s basketball team, and head coach of boy’s track team. “Mr. Carranza does not end his day when the last bell rings. He mentors our students by coaching the sixth grade boys’ basketball team and assisting with the varsity team,” said Deadre Ussery, Kirby’s principal . “He also mentors students during after-school detention by encouraging them to be model students and to learn positive behaviors, because he believes it’s all about the students.”
Modeling Great Leadership
Carranza credits Principal Ussery for inspiring the way he approaches students and families, “Principal Ussery is my role model for how I want to conduct myself in education and with students,”said Carranza. “You can see the care she has for people and how she treats students like family, and she’s so committed to involving parents.”
Ussery holds Carranza in similar esteem, and sees him as playing a crucial role in Kirby’s culture.
“When you enter Kirby Middle, the first person who greets you is Ricardo Carranza. Every day, the same place, the same time, and the same warm inviting smiling face,” said Ussery.
“On any given day, our office staff receives feedback from several visitors complimenting Mr. Carranza on his professionalism and great customer service. He greets all our guests with a smile and a handshake.”
A Legacy Through Brotherhood
While Adams sparked the idea for Carranza to apply to Kirby, his first introduction to Green Dot came through his younger brother, Giovanni, who attended Wooddale Middle School during its first year of Green Dot’s operation. At the time, Ussery was an assistant principal at Wooddale, and Carranza recalls his brother having a positive experience there.
Giovanni is now a sophomore at Fairley High School. Carranza is excited his younger brother will be at a school under the leadership of Fairley Principal Michael Bates. “Mr. Bates has been another role model. I remember hearing about his impact on Memphis as a teacher, and about him being a powerful principal at Hamilton High School,” said Carranza.
In partnership with the teachers at Fairley, Carranza has shepherded his brother to plan for college. Giovanni wants to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and attend the University of Memphis.
It’s because of the passion and commitment of team members like Carranza that all of our Green Dot students receive the care, mentorship, and academic support to graduate prepared for college, leadership, and life.