The Gifts from 9th Grade

How lucky am I that I still get to keep in touch with and enjoy the company of my high school guidance counselor and history teacher?

I remember being concerned when my 9th grade counselor departed at the end of the academic year. We had built a rapport, and I really liked her. Ms. Angela Lewis quickly wiped my fears away, when she stepped in to take on the roster of students that included me. She was supportive, encouraging, and her smile was and remains contagious. 

Along with my friend, John, we started stopping by daily to visit our counselors. He was assigned to Ms. Paula Dodelin (sadly she passed away in 1995…what a gem). Ms. Lewis and Ms. Dodelin became a pair to our pair, and for the next three years they helped us with every piece of research, writing recommendations for summer and school-year programs, filing paperwork for scholarships, and getting our packets together for college, while also inviting us out to lunch or to their homes for dinner, recognizing our birthdays, discussing books with us, taking walks around Cooper River Park, etc. 

Ms. Lewis gave me my first grown-up perfume—Paloma Picasso Eau De Parfum—wow! She had her sights on me becoming a Spelman woman, and I was excited until it became clear I wouldn’t receive enough financial aid (different time and most HBCUs didn’t have as much financial aid as they needed and would have liked to deploy). We bonded, and she only wanted amazing things for me. We always talked about travel, and when I finally had a chance to do so through a semester abroad to London, she asked her book club to help support my effort. They sent me a check every month to help with my expenses. The memory still brings tears of joy and thanks to my eyes.

Over the years Ms. Lewis became A.L. 

Mrs. Dorothy Grant Dunmore was my formidable 9th grade History teacher. She set the standard on day one when she presented us with a multi-page syllabus (I had never heard the word syllabus before), laid out her expectations, and explained the piéce de résistance—the major research project we would complete in the spring. I felt like I had been shot out of a cannon. It was a great mix of utter fear and exhilaration!

I learned tons from Mrs. Dunmore over the course of the academic year, including resiliency, something she never sought to teach us in the way it showed up in her life. Within the first few months of 9th grade, she lost both of her parents. She took bereavement leave and when she returned, she never missed a beat with us, but as an adult I now recognize she was working while managing unimaginable pain. She showed up for us each and every day and pushed us to do our very best.

We learned history like it should be taught! She followed our history book, but she went beyond it with other readings, worksheets, films, and even a trip to see the movie A Soldier’s Story. She wanted us to deeply understand and recognize everything, including fascism and authoritarianism, how Black soldiers were treated and disrespected while fighting for this country, the appeal of Marcus Garvey, and the tension between Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. We dissected the World Wars, we learned about leadership, and we spent time understanding the Black experience, People of Color, immigrants, and the experience of women in this country. She exposed us to new books like Ayn Rand and insisted that we learn to connect the dots to understand that everyone and everything is connected.

Over the years Mrs. Dunmore became D.D.

These women have shared writing letters, postcards, phone calls, emails, and texts with me for four decades, gave me wedding and birthday gifts, attended my baby shower (my daughter is now 21), invited me to their birthday celebrations, have answered my questions, talked politics with me, shared their lives so I would have additional windows into how a woman’s life evolves, and most endearingly they tell me they love me and how proud they are of me.

How lucky am I?!!!











Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC is a certified National Supplier Development Council Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Small Business Administration (SBA) Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB), and Women’s Business Enterprise Network Council (WBENC) woman-owned company. The company is comprised of a suite of brands, including TDB Group Strategic Advisory, a management consulting firm, as well as Looking Forward Lab, which offers a full-service learning engagement model focused on Gen Z workplace development and support for their managers.

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