Malik Yant may be new to Metro Nashville Public Schools, but he believes he has walked into the role he was created to serve in through a life of struggle and success.
“I’m new to the district, but I’ve worked for other non-profit organizations that have partnered with MNPS, so I’m very familiar with the work,” Yant said.
Yant serves as the Community Achieves coordinator and boys’ basketball coach at John Early Museum Magnet School. He is tasked with partnering with outside organizations to provide resources, both in and outside of his school, for students and families.
Yant, who is a 2018 Fisk University graduate, grew up in what he describes as “two very different worlds.” He was reared in Jackson, Miss., where poverty was at an all-time high for his friends and family, and Delray Beach, Fla., where he lived adjacent to the tennis courts where Venus and Serena Williams trained.
“I come from a low-income family. I lived out of my mother’s car for a school year and a half, so I understand where our families are coming from,” he said.
While he is grateful to have overcome poverty, he understands the flip side of having more than enough, so he connects with students and families on both ends of the spectrum.
Yant does not feel ashamed of who he is or where he comes from. He believes his experiences have prepared him for his current role, which connects him with children and families on similar paths.
Yant comes from a family of educators who have all traditionally attended Florida State University or Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). His grandfather, who taught political science at FAMU and Barry University, encouraged him to break tradition to attend Fisk in Nashville after he was offered a basketball scholarship.
While he credits education and sports with saving his life, he wants to be able to pay it forward to the students at John Early in a different way.
Yant holds a degree in English from Fisk, so people naturally assumed he wanted to be a teacher. “I want to be a teacher, but not a traditional classroom teacher,” he said. “Growing up in my neighborhood, we [children] only wanted to be athletes or rappers because we were never exposed to doctors, lawyers, or other professionals.”
He wants something different for his middle school students.
“I want my life to be a testimony to the student who wants to give up today. I understand how it feels to not know where you’re going to lay your head at night or what you’re going to eat and still be expected to compete in the classroom and on the court.”
Therefore, he has established three pillars that he is focused on bringing to the table to support students and families on their journey at John Early: “Resources, Leadership, and Exposure.”
Yant says he never tells a student no when it comes to needing resources, and he encourages them to hang in there when times get tough. He is also committed to exposing students to professionals beyond athletics and the entertainment industry.
He believes he has found his calling in his dream job.
“Prior to taking this job, I saw first-hand how Community Achieves supported families during the beginning of the pandemic with diaper drives, turkey drives, and backpack drives. I knew I wanted to be a part of that.”
And he wants more for John Early than the community believes they see: “We have a great staff and administration here at our school, and I want us to be able to tell our own story in a positive way.”
When Yant is not helping families, he likes to spend time boxing, sleeping, and watching Animal Planet. He recently wrote a book called “The Book of Vision” that will be released next year.