Today I am joined by Ashanti Branch for Act 2 of our conversation, and almost immediately, we explore the genesis of the "Million Mask Movement," a powerful initiative aimed at helping individuals unmask their true selves and fostering empathy. Ashanti shares deeply personal stories, revealing the challenges he faced during a workshop and the wake-up call that fueled his commitment to continuous growth. As we journey through Ashanti's experiences at the Kennedy Center and his reflections on receiving the Surgeon General's medallion, we witness the humility and dedication that define his work, and before wrapping up our conversation, Ashanti leaves us with a profound reminder that the movement is not just about reaching a million masks; it's about creating a world where people feel seen and valued, fostering empathy on a global scale.
Mr. Branch, born and raised by a single mother on welfare in Oakland, California, took the road less traveled to get out of the ghetto and attended one of California’s premier engineering colleges, California Polytechnic - San Luis Obispo. Ashanti studied Civil Engineering and worked as a construction project manager in his first career. After tutoring struggling students and realizing his true passion was teaching, Mr. Branch changed careers. He had suddenly found the “fire” that was missing in his life and he hoped to ignite a similar enthusiasm in his young students.
In 2004 as a first year teacher, Ashanti started The Ever Forward Club to provide a support group for African American and Latino males, who were not achieving to the level of their potential. Since then, The Ever Forward Club has grown to serve both young men and women and become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The Ever Forward Club has helped 100% of its members graduate high school and 93% of them have gone on to attend college.
With over 19 years mentoring youth and 10 of those years as a math teacher educating inner city youth, Ashanti was awarded with a Fulbright Exchange Fellowship to India, a Rotary Club Cultural Ambassadorial Fellowship to Mexico and a 2010 Teacher of the Year Award from the Alameda-Contra Costa County Math Educators.
Mr. Branch is on a mission to change the way that students interact with their education and the way schools interact with students.