Charles Brown and Vinay Mullick's chance meeting in Chicago's South Side explains their desire to give back
By Bryan Kitch
Building student-teacher relationships, much like building athlete-coach relationships, isn’t always easy. But those bonds, like those of family, can be lifelong. When a young, high school student-athlete Charles Brown met a young teacher, Vinay Mullick, at Paul Robeson High School in Chicago's South Side, the two immediately recognized an internal desire to succeed in one another. And that’s where our narrative begins.
Charles Brown was already a known quantity on the playing field in Englewood on the South Side of Chicago. Always an excellent athlete, Brown’s internal sense of competition—the need to be the best he could be—meant that his push for excellence was fluid, spilling over into all aspects of his young life.
"For me, it goes back to an early age. Someone in my position had no choice but to try to be the best," says Brown. "That was true both in school and in athletics. That's what drove me to get good grades, and to be so competitive on the field."
He's not kidding—he was recognized at the time as one best high school athletes in Illinois, in both football and track.
That drive to succeed, both in sports and in academics, partly comes from his home life. Brown was one of two kids in a single-parent home—his mother, Gloria Williams, was a hugely positive influence on his life, leading by example. While working for a non-profit counseling ex-offenders and looking after her children, Williams enrolled as a part-time student at Chicago State University. Suffice it to say, Brown didn’t have to look very far to find a role model.
Brown met and became close with a Teach For America corps member, Vinay Mullick, who was both a classroom teacher and an academic advisor to the football team. He immediately recognized Brown’s promise, and committed himself to helping Brown take those next steps that so few from Paul Robeson High School had taken before.
"My first year teaching was Charles’ sophomore year," Mullick, a graduate of Northern Illinois University, says. "A lot of people that I trusted, who were fellow coaches and people that had given me an opportunity to get involved with the football team at that school — they saw Charles as a kid with a very strong work ethic, and a ton of potential. He had a mom that was passionate about education and the opportunities it would provide for him, to take him to new heights. And then obviously the mix of academic and athletic excellence really made him stand out among his peers."
He adds: "He was very no nonsense. Very reserved. He was kind of a quiet kid back then. But you knew you could count on Charles, inside the classroom and out, and even in the hallways with other peers of his, to be a good example."
"I definitely think that in programs like the ones I came through, obviously, the formula works."