College freshman Nathaniel Thomas knows what he wants to do when he grows up. His plans don't involve making a lot of money, traveling extensively or negotiating expensive perquisites like stock options and a company car.
He plans to spend his days at a job that has low pay, high stress, little recognition and, to hear some tell it, few emotional rewards.
"I want to be a teacher," said Thomas, a 1999 graduate of Suitland High School. "I don't know what kind of teacher I'll be because I've never done it. But I know I want to come back to Prince George's County after college and teach high school."
Thomas, 18, is in the first year of a program at Hampton University where he will receive a bachelor's in politics and a master's in education. He plans to teach government.
Thomas already has an impressive resume. He was elected to high positions in the Prince George's County Regional Association of Student Governments and the Maryland Association of Student Councils and at his school. He sat on task forces for academic intervention, school staffing and school safety and served as a delegate to the National Association of Student Councils. He has worked as an intern for U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and as a page for the Maryland General Assembly.
He has lobbied the General Assembly to support a cigarette tax and met with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and other national political figures on Capitol Hill as one of 50 winners of the U.S. Senate Youth Program.
He's already got connections he could parlay into a job on the Hill or use to get into a major firm.
But he wants to spend his days in the classroom, imparting knowledge to sometimes unwilling students. To him, teaching is a natural extension of who he is. His mother, Diane Fingers, is principal at Indian Queen Elementary School in Fort Washington. His father, Benjamin, is a reemployment consultant, having started his career as a teacher. His grandmother was a principal.
A second career in politics, his second love, will come later. First, he wants to follow that adage--"Each one teach one." At Suitland, he resurrected the school's future educators program.
"I was always surrounded by education, and they have always instilled in me the importance of education," Thomas said. "Even with all the activities I was involved with in school, they said make sure your grades are high and do the best you can in school. . . . I'd like to impart that to students as a teacher."
CAPTION: Hampton University freshman Nathaniel Thomas, 18, plans to teach government at a Prince George's high school.