New METCO Coordinator J. Malcolm Cawthorne helps students thrive


Emily Trelstad/Sagamore Staff

J. Malcolm Cawthorne said he looks forward to forming bonds with his students. Cawthorne has worked in the social studies department for many years and is now the METCO coordinator.

15,000 names on the waiting list, with many of the names belonging to infants or toddlers. The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) buses students of color in Boston to high-achieving public schools in other parts of the state, and it provides the high school with around 5 percent of its student body.

Newly appointed METCO Coordinator J. Malcolm Cawthorne seeks to maintain a supportive community for METCO students and help them find success at the high school. 

Cawthorne has worked in the social studies department for many years, but the opportunity to make real change in the lives of students that this role offers him was an exciting prospect. 

“As much as I love being a classroom teacher it’s sort of a one-shot deal, you get them for a year,” Cawthorne said. “This way I’ll have the chance to work with kids over the course of four years, which I’m really excited for.”

The four-year relationship that Cawthorne will get to form with students in this new position goes beyond the students themselves. 

“I think what is different from being a classroom teacher to this position is that I don’t just need to know the students,” Cawthorne said. “I need to know their families too and what their families expect, and how they expect their kids to meet those things.”

Besides the achievement of a student’s goals, Cawthorne wants those in METCO to enjoy their time at the high school and have access to the same events as every other student.

“We’d like our kids to have an incredible experience,” Cawthorne said.  “When we talk about long-term goals we want to make sure METCO kids fit into the nooks and crannies of the high school, and we’re trying to make sure that there’s METCO representation on things like Legislature so that their voice is heard.”

Junior Wayne Meadows, a METCO student, mentioned how the students and teachers of METCO take care of each other.

“When being in METCO, we have meetings with all METCO students once in a while to check in on each other,” Meadows said. “Overall, I think METCO is a great program and I am very grateful I had the opportunity to join.”

Junior Skye Millor-Hammond talked about the importance of the METCO community to her high school experience.

“It’s my community,” Millor-Hammond said. “I think the METCO program to me is like my family because I’ve been with them for a long time, since kindergarten. You can be surrounded by people you connect with. It helps you to have fun and be surrounded by people you like.”

According to Cawthorne, as the size of Brookline’s school-age population has grown, the town has faced decisions about whether to maintain the number of METCO students in the school system.

“I don’t want to pretend that these are easy decisions, but these are realities for Brookline,” Cawthorne said. “You can look at population shifts all over the commonwealth and see things like that, Brookline is no different in that way. I think Brookline is one of the towns with the power to handle it in a unique way, because of who we are and what we stand for and the resources we have.”

The METCO program, which has been in place since 1966, has changed over time, with some of today’s METCO students having parents who graduated from the high school through METCO. Despite their differences from the students that live in Brookline, METCO students continue to thrive through the program. 

“They make friends, they connect, but they still have a duality in which they live. They don’t live in Brookline, and so that adds another layer to their pursuit of education that I don’t think has changed since 1966,” Cawthorne said. “METCO kids have done what they always have done, which is to come in and be academically strong. They come here to go to school.”