When Jarrett Monroe decided to follow one of his brothers in attending North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, he wasn’t just thinking about the family legacy. He wanted the opportunity to be around other Black students interested in engineering
His older brother, Pierce, graduated from the historically Black university in Greensboro, North Carolina, this spring and Jarrett Monroe will pick up where his brother left off when he starts his freshman year there this fall.
Monroe, 18, of Bel Air, is a member of the Harford Technical High School graduating Class of 2021. He plans to study computer engineering in college and either work in information technology or architectural engineering.
“I’m keeping my options open, seeing where these opportunities will lead me,” he said.
Jarrett is the youngest of Sean and Sonja Monroe’s three sons — his oldest brother, Montae, graduated from Frostburg State University in Western Maryland in 2008.
He chose North Carolina A&T because of its top programs for African American engineers. Monroe wants to push back against the stereotype of young Black men not being interested in education.
“Everybody, no matter where they come from, they can always click and come together for the greater good,” he said of the student body.
Harford Technical High School is a magnet school for Harford County students who want to learn trades or professions such as carpentry, welding, auto repair, health care, cosmetology, food preparation and management and teaching.
Monroe studied computer-aided design, in addition to playing football, basketball and running track for the Cobras and being involved in multiple extracurricular activities such as the Voices of Equity school club, serving on the HCPS superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. He also is a member of the school’s National Honor Society and honor societies for subjects such as science, art, career and technical education and the Rho Kappa NHS for social studies.
Monroe also has been involved in the local Youth Enrichment Society and youth organizations at his family’s church, New Hope Baptist Church in Bel Air. His maternal grandparents, the Rev. William Butler and Lady Sonja Butler, serve as pastors for Queen’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Beltsville, and his grandfather spent 14 years as a pastor in Harford County.
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“That’s our whole foundation,” Monroe’s mother said. “We’re a Christian family, and we’re just rooted in love of God and faith.”
Monroe thinks his peers would describe him as “hard working” and “tenacious.” His parents offered more superlatives about their youngest, such as having “a passion for people,” “a great young man with a heart of gold,” “passionate about his purpose in life,” and someone “of great integrity” who is “destined for greatness.”
“He’s learned how to balance things,” Sonja Monroe said. “He has learned how to pivot, and when things have been a challenge, he doesn’t give up.”
Jarrett said his greatest accomplishment in high school is graduating after a year with multiple challenges, including spending most of the year learning virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monroe wants his ability to persevere through the past year and graduate from high school to be an inspiration to other young people, especially Black students, to give hope to those “who might feel like they need that extra push.”
He looks forward to “just creating something for myself,” although he knows that adversity and challenges will come.
“Being able to get up and push forward, and just being able to be a successful Black man in society is something I look forward to,” Monroe said.