The Ellis County African American Hall of Fame is launching a new program.

Kenya Menjivar
Waxahachie Daily Light

Applications for the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame’s North Star Institute African American Studies Program are now open. The program begins in the month of April as a 12-week program.

The Ellis County African American Hall of Fame has been in Waxahachie for many years, founded by CEO Dr. Jamal Rasheed, who initially had the idea for the North Star Institute program.

This program has been created to teach participants about the Black history that isn’t particularly taught in school. 

“The North Star Institute, the Bessie Coleman Chapter, is an initiative by the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame designed to build the knowledge base of the participants program, as it relates to their understanding of history, particularly through the lens of African American history,” shared Steve Rachel, the program's lead instructor. “What we’re doing for this first time ... is that we’re basically surveying a textbook from Prentice Hall. We’re going to be reading that over the next 12 weeks, to kind of develop our understanding and just to learn about the history that isn’t normally presented in our schools system.”

Rachel is also a current teacher at Ferris High School.

“I’m in a particular school district where they didn’t have a chance to put many African American History programs together. There was none since I have been here. Last year we took the initiative, me and a group of a few other teachers. We took the initiative to take over the program. So we had a program, but in doing that I reached out to whoever I could get help from, and Dr. Rasheed was the one that kind of answered my call for help,” Rachel said.

Since their initial meeting, Rasheed and Rachel have kept in touch. Throughout 2020, Rasheed reached out to Rachel, and they have been working together to polish and design a course for the program. The class originally was going to be taught solely online, meeting up with the students about three times throughout the program. However, on Thursday, they decided to open up the option of in-person class and allow students the opportunity to learn without screens. 

“I think this was clearly an idea that he had and that the board members kind of wanted to move forward with. They want to educate many people about things they don’t know about that they should know about,” Rachel said. “The ultimate goal is we want this part of history to be included. Because some of the history that they learn here actually is not included in the textbooks. The ultimate goal is, there are portions of our history that need to be taught together."

Online classes will begin Thursday, April 1, in collaboration with the Waxahachie Inclusion and Diversity Initiative. The deadline to register is Monday, March 29. 

The in-person classes will be taught by Dr. Rasheed.

Last Thursday, March 18, a meeting was held regarding information about the program, and people shared their questions and opinions. 

“Some of the people in the meeting are like, I like to have discussions. I’m getting tired of looking at computer screens," said Rasheed. “I’m a hands-on professor ... when I do stuff, I need your feedback.”

To register for the online class, visit .

To register for the in-person class, people can go to the museum on April 3 from 10 a.m.  to 5 p.m. A form has yet to be sent out for the in-person registration. Classes will begin April 15, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., with another class from 3-5 p.m. Each class is limited to 25 people, due to COVID-19.