Brandon Callender

Brandon Callender channels his passion through justice

By Jared Weber

As a young boy and comic book fanatic, Brandon Callender was always puzzled as to why none of his favorite superheroes looked like himself.

Instead of confronting the lingering question, he let it fester in his mind.

“I should have asked someone [that question] instead of keeping it internal,” Callender said. “It made me wonder, ‘why couldn’t I be the one saving America at the end of the day?’”

Callender, now 16 years old, is a rising high school senior at Northern High School in Durham, North Carolina. He plays the alto saxophone in the school band and is a senior representative on the School Advisory Council.

Callender has always admired, as he refers to them, “people who care about the advancement of others.” However, as he has grown up and matured, he has started to appreciate different types of people who fulfill that billing.
Especially the ones that do not wear disguises or have super strength.

One of those people is Nancy Duffner, his AP English Language and Composition teacher last school year. Callender takes time out of her day to listen to her students and cares about the relationships she develops with them.

“I literally sat in Ms. Duffner’s class every morning during the fall semester,” he said. “I watched seniors rush to turn in their [college] essays and she went over the top helping them every single day.”

When Duffner was not spending her mornings assisting frantic seniors in finishing their applications, she would often have casual conversations with her students about world events. Callender sees meaning in a simple gesture like this.
“There is no talking down to you,” he said of the conversations he and his teacher shared. “[We are] both on equal ground at that point and [we] respect each other’s opinions.”

In his wallet, Callender keeps a hall pass he received from Duffner during the past school year.

“Look at this hall pass,” he said, removing the folded-up white teacher’s note from his wallet. The pass had a blank space for the last two digits of the year in which it was issued. The first two digits were 19, for the twentieth century.
“The passes at my school now are yellow,” he said. “For a teacher that has been working as long as she has, to continue giving back, it’s amazing.”

While Callender recognizes and appreciates the passions of others, he is also intensely passionate about the things that are important to him. Among those passions are his family, social justice and professional wrestling.

Whenever he sparks a new interest in any particular thing or hobby, he immediately begins to look further into that pursuit.

“If I get into something, I will go the extra mile to sit down and research it for hours,” Callender said. “I delve into information. I can just take it all in, then take what I found and tell someone else about it.”

Recently, this instinct to learn and inform has also allowed him to break out of the tentativeness that he felt as a boy who was curious about his superheroes.

One of these superhero-type hot-button issues is social justice.
“Becoming educated about social justice, not just with the people who share your viewpoints, is really important if you want to fix things,” Callender said.

He plans to pay it forward and continue the social justice discussion in his future dream profession: High school English teacher.