Abe Coleman, a longtime Holmes Elementary teacher and mentor to thousands of young men in Miami — “one of the best that the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project ever had” — died Wednesday, Sept. 1, after being hospitalized with COVID-19.
Coleman’s wife, Inez Jackson, agrees with that assessment of Coleman by leaders within the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring program founded in 1993 by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson when she was a Miami-Dade County School Board member. According to 5000 Role Models, its in-school mentoring and dropout prevention program is designed to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and to help guide minority kids toward manhood and college.
“You couldn’t ask for a better man than Abe Coleman. He was the best,” his wife said.
Coleman was 55.
“He was amazing, absolutely amazing,” Wilson said. “He was a man for all seasons. There was nothing you could ask him to do for children that he wouldn’t do. He took them to jails. He took them to college tours. To Frost Museum. He took them to Vizcaya. For those little children, this is such a huge, huge loss.”
Teaching and mentoring at Holmes was, quite literally, home for Coleman. He attended the elementary school on Northwest 67th Street in Miami-Dade’s Liberty City neighborhood. From the time he was a student there in the early 1970s, Coleman saw a richness and vibrancy among its students. He endeavored for decades to contribute to their futures.
“People think because Holmes is in the inner city it’s all Black, but Holmes Elementary is richly integrated and so he had little boys of all stripes and colors that he would mentor,” Wilson said. “Even during the pandemic, when half the students were at home and schools were shut down and people were wearing masks and people were social distancing he was having Zoom meetings with these little boys at home. He never stopped and those little children are devastated.”
Wilson said Coleman, who had partnered with federal judge and former Holmes student Rodney Smith in mentoring, had told school Principal Launa Fuller, fellow teachers and Marcus Bright from 5000 Role Models that he had contracted COVID. He told them he was going to the hospital.
That was the last his colleagues had heard from the hospitalized Coleman, who started teaching at Holmes in March 1989.
“Everyone was expecting him to come back to school and no one was expecting him to die,” Wilson said. “Next thing we knew, they were calling us to tell us that he passed.”
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SOURCE: Miami Herald, Howard Cohen