Landon Wilson ‘19 has been named a 2018-2019 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholar.
The Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars program honors the University of Maryland’s most successful seniors and their designated University faculty and K-12 teachers for their mentorship.
“I feel particularly fortunate to be selected at a time where education is under so much scrutiny and change,” Wilson said.
Wilson has insight to populations under scrutiny -- he has dedicated himself to working with LGBTQ students and students in juvenile detention, many of whom don’t fit a traditional definition of “success.”
“Many of these young people are not receiving the educational resources they should, and they don't even know that they should receive these resources,” he said. “I believe education should give young folks the ability to critically question and engage with the world around them. I've been very fortunate to have had opportunities to work with young people who are able to say, "I don't like this. What if we did it this way instead?"
Wilson himself is a non-traditional student. At 28, he is older than most of his classmates, is married, and is a veteran of the United States Navy, where he served as a cryptologic technician after dropping out of college shortly following graduation from high school in his hometown of Warner Robbins, Ga. He is reluctant to say that his experience sets him apart from his classmates.
“Every person has unique and varied understandings of the world around us, and when we consider those understandings in a classroom, we are able to get an incredible array of educational approaches,” he said. “Because I've been out of the secondary school world for quite a bit, I'm able to gain more first-hand experiences from my peers, who haven't been as removed from that world. As an educator and youth advocate, I think being a constant learner is so important, and luckily I'm able to do that because no one in my cohort has the same experiences as I do.”
One person who is not reluctant to cite Wilson’s uniqueness is his mentor and professor, Dr. Peggy Wilson (no relation).
“He didn't speak out often in class, but when he did, it was so thought provoking,” said Dr. Wilson, who said Wilson would send her work he’d done with the students he volunteered with, including a project on information literacy. “He didn't mind expressing views that didn't agree with everything [everyone else in class was saying]. He was such a benefit to the class and so committed to the kids [he worked with]. To say he had a heart for students and for learning does not even come close to what I saw.”
Wilson, who holds an associate’s of arts degree in teaching from Montgomery College, will graduate next spring with a bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education, after which he hopes to teach 9th and 10th grade. He’ll spend his final year as an undergraduate student-teaching at Montgomery Blair High School, where he looks forward to learning from his students.
“Too often, students learn to look at their teachers as the authority, and I want to work towards deconstructing that idea,” he said. “We're all in these spaces to learn - and while they should learn from me, I should also be learning from them.”