His Students Call Him "Dad"

Hayward Jean grew up in a dangerous neighborhood in a single parent home. His father abandoned the family when Hayward was two. That left Hayward, his mother, and two siblings in poverty. Nevertheless, his mother never spoke ill of his father. She didn’t want to instill hatred or anger in the children. Instead, she always spoke positive, encouraging words about who they were and what they could become. "She always kept us doing activities,” said Hayward. “She kept me in church, but church was not in me." She ruled the home with an iron fist and didn't allow “gangsta” music or associations with activities in the neighborhood. "We were more afraid of her than the police," he said.

As Hayward grew older, he resented men in positions of authority. "I did well in school and didn't rebel against my mother,” he said. “I leaned on my her to constantly remind me of who I would be. But I rejected the idea that I could have the love of a father." This created a void in Hayward. By the time he reached college he was angry. "I would hit the wall, throw things." He would yell, wanted to fight and struggled with depression.

In college, Hayward made friends with Christian young men and often went to Bible study. He wanted to return to the faith of his childhood. When 9/11 happened, he realized he had no time to waste. "9/11 changed my whole life. It was a wake-up call that showed me this life could be taken away instantly. I was looking for answers,” he said. As a sophomore in college, Hayward decided to attend a prayer session in his dormitory. "In that room, there was the presence of God I had never felt before." Afterwards, Hayward began to read the Bible. He went back the next week and met with the campus pastor. He prayed the prayer of salvation and asked Jesus into his heart. "I developed a relationship with the Lord and it shifted my focus. Rather than talking at God, I was talking to God. Jesus made me feel valuable. I had thought I was not important enough for a father to love me, but with Jesus I had value." Soon, his anger dissipated. He sought and accepted the guidance of mentors.

After his prayer, Hayward received a voice mail message from his father out of the blue, letting Hayward know he was alive. It was the first time he had heard his father’s voice since Hayward was two. "It was a chilling moment,” said Hayward. “I froze. I didn't even know he was alive. I wanted to talk to him." Hayward later learned that his father had 20 known children, and no relationship with any of them. Determined to connect with his dad, Hayward planned to meet him in New York, where he lived. Unfortunately, when Hayward arrived, his father made no attempt to meet him. Hayward saw him only once, and his father refused to speak more than a few words. Hayward was crushed. In that moment, he spoke to God. “I realized if I held forgiveness from my dad, God holds forgiveness from me. I knew I had to release him,” he said.  Hayward was eventually able to forgive him. "I realized he was taught by his father to have children and no relationship. He treated me the way he was treated."

Hayward continued with his studies and became involved in the Call Me Mister mentor leadership program for young men, which laid the foundation for his academic career.  He is now the principal of Mellichamp Elementary School in Orangeburg, SC and has had a tremendous influence on the students and staff at Mellichamp. Under his leadership, the school went from an “F” rating to an “A” rating in just one year. Mellichamp has a ballet studio to discover professional dancers, a golf-mentoring program an entrepreneur club, the Gentlemen’s club, a STEM club and a public speaking club. These are designed develop leadership skills within the youth, and grant them a broad exposure.  Hayward says he has a heart for the fatherless generation because he was fatherless. “Children need to know the truth about their identity,” said Hayward. “Growing up without a father…you are in chains if you don't know the love of a father. But there is a way out. The difference is Jesus.”

Mentioned in the Video

Guest Info


Principal, Mellichamp Elementary School, Orangeburg, SC

Assistant Pastor of The Feast of the Lord Church

B.A., Elementary Education, Claflin University

M.A. School Administration, Cambridge College

Has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Education Week, Center for American Progress, The Times and Democrat newspaper, where he was named as one of the top ten citizens who made a difference in Orangeburg, SC, and the ETV documentary entitled Call Me MISTER

Recipient, Presidential Citation for Educator of the Year in 2016 by The Orangeburg Branch of the NAACP

Wife, Starlette Jean

Three children, Hayward, Malachi, and Imani



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