As a student at Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School, Shomari Tate wished he had someone to talk to about cultural issues and how he approaches them as a Christ follower.
Now, he is blessed to be that person for students at his alma mater.
Tate never thought he would be a mentor for high school students, but in 2019, God called him to just that.
“It came to me that what God was working on was not just a vocation where I would be helping people, but also one where I can spread the mission and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Tate said.
As the director of equity and multiculturalism at Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Tate has the privilege of leading and engaging with students as they seek to create a more inclusive culture. Tate’s role also includes leading the charge on the school’s multicultural efforts and making sure educators have tools to teach diverse perspectives on each subject, whether that’s math, science or history.
“The mission of Catholic Central is to know and love God, seek knowledge and truth, respect the dignity of each person and contribute to society through leadership and service,” Tate said. “It becomes very easy to insert cultural topics into the curriculum because our mission alludes to this.”
Tate is amazed by how today’s high schoolers seem to eagerly engage with today’s cultural issues and discern how they can work to solve them.
“I’ve never seen a more intellectual group of kids,” Tate said. “They have so much information at their disposal. They’re asking questions I never would have thought of at that age.”
Tate examines social justice not only one-on-one and in the classroom but also as the defensive line coach and chaplain for Catholic Central’s state championship football team.
“For high schoolers, living as a Christian is countercultural in 2021,” Tate said. “They have been set apart, as 1 Peter 2:9 tells them. Our 2020 state championship theme was having a humble heart. I’m trying to teach these young men that while football is an important part of their lives, it’s also preparing them for the battles they will face later in life.”
Tate accepted his position at Catholic Central at the same time he began his degree program at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He fully believes that this was no accident—God is teaching him in both classrooms, whether he’s the student or the instructor himself. While his students wrestle with the culture of today, he is wrestling with theology and doctrine.
“During my program, I applied what I was learning in my classes to what I was talking about with my students,” Tate said. “The courses helped me stand on the teachings of the Bible while providing an ethical approach to those under my care.”
At the heart of Tate’s ministry to high schoolers, whether that’s in class or on the football field, is a desire to help them view social justice through a biblical lens. He often uses the story of the Good Samaritan—a story familiar to most Christ followers but oftentimes misunderstood.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, the religious clergy of the day ignored the man in the ditch. The man was ritualistically unclean, so avoiding him was doctrinally correct. But through the lens of the Gospels, the clergy should have treated the man with love first.
“The Samaritan in the story would be considered a person of color by today’s standards,” Tate said. “While doctrines and theology are important, I want my students to understand that loving others as Christ loves us is essential to both the gospel and social justice.”
Being a mentor to high schoolers isn’t always easy, Tate says, but it’s an extreme privilege to have influence on their lives. At an age where they are forming their own worldviews, it’s important for teens to have a mentor they can come to with questions. Tate listens and responds but also knows there are lessons they have to learn on their own. At the end of the day, his high schoolers will enter into a world that might not understand their faith.
“We are in the midst of a cultural reckoning, and the Lord is calling us to speak to some things that have been ignored for quite some time,” Tate said. “My prayer is that we come out more unified than ever.”
And Tate’s role as a mentor to young minds is exactly where God wants him in the midst of this reckoning. He’s preparing students to preach a gospel of radical love in a culture that is thirsty for the truth.
Shomari Tate serves as the director of equity and multiculturalism at Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2017 with his Bachelor of Arts in political science and government and again in 2019 with a Master of Public Policy in political science. He graduated from GRTS in 2021 with his Master of Arts in ministry leadership. In fall 2021, he will begin his Doctor of Education degree through PGS.