By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
LINWOOD – Andre Clements stands out just about wherever he goes, but for the special education teacher and golf coach at Mainland Regional High School, that is essentially always good thing.
The South Jersey native is one of few African American golf coaches in the state. His squad of Riley Mostecki, Luca Bongiovanni, Xander Matik, Evan Goldberg and Jack Hennelly won the Central-South Jersey Group 3 sectional title Monday at West Deptford Township for the first time in about a decade.
Mostecki, Bongiovanni and Madeline Kent finished fourth out of 60 schools at the prestigious Carl Arena/Al Rifkin Memorial Golf Tournament at the Blue Heron Country Club in Egg Harbor Township last week.
Last March, NJ.com called him a local hero with several other Mainland staffers who more than 300 meals to needy families during the coronavirus pandemic last school year.
With the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, he is known as Senior Airman Andre Clements, a member of the religious affairs unit counseling and praying with and for his fellow airmen as they defend the country.
“I love it here at Mainland,” said Clements, who is also an assistant football coach under Chuck Smith and teaches mathematics, science and history. “We have great community support. The kids work hard and they want the best. We want the best for them as well. We always stress academics to them and this is a close, tight-knit community.”
The Mays Landing native attended Oakcrest High School before playing football at The College of New Jersey. He taught at Oakcrest before coming to Mainland, where he has been for eight years.
New Jersey Air National Guard
Clements has been with the New Jersey Air National Guard for 15 years and is a chaplain assistant with the U.S. Air Force.
“My father was a retired Army Reserve for 27 years,” Clements told Front Runner New Jersey. “I was in my fourth year of teaching when I decided to join the reserves. Watching my father, it was always something I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to do in serving our country.
“An opportunity presented itself where I was able to start off in the communications area and then I transferred to the chaplain system. There, I was able to get a chance to check on people and see how they are doing, do some mentoring and counseling while building relationships. It gave me a chance to support them in various situations.”
Relating to Others
Clements said it is that aspect with the Air National Guard that translates well into schoolwork and coaching.
“In much the same way as being a teacher, I’m able to reach out and relate to my students and even our staff. I deal with a lot of conflict resolution because you just never know what students and staff are going through at any given time behind the scenes.
“Like members of the Air Force, you’re that bridge from unit support system for them, knowing that they have somebody that they can come to, talk to and confide in with confidentiality,” Clements said.
It’s part of that sense of duty where Clements is often going beyond the call of duty to help others. In March 2020, he was one of several Mainland staffers cited delivering meals. He even personally helped 10 families set up their school computers at home so students could learn over the Internet during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Calling to Teach, Give
It was that calling that led him to education field as well.
“My undergrad degree is actually in justice,” Clements said. “I had a chance to substitute teach as soon as I finished college, and then went into business for about a year and had a chance to interview for a fulltime special ed position at Oakcrest.
“I knew then that education was the career field for me. Not only are you always giving back to your students, but every day is a new challenge. It’s just an awesome profession to be in. You deal with different students all the time, from all ethnicities and you have a chance to make an impact on someone’s life every day.”
As one of a handful of African American male teachers at Mainland, Clements said he takes his responsibility as a role model seriously. He said while it’s important for other Black students to see a positive role model, he believes its important for all students to see that as well.
“When it comes down to it in any profession, it’s about learning how to work together as a team, doing things together and truly respecting one another,” Clements said. “You can learn that in the military as well. When you learn that power of teamwork where you work with all kinds of people, races, you can do anything.
“In my profession, it’s important to know our students, know their families and the best way to support them, love them and care for one another. When you love one another, it makes life a little easier,” Clements said.
Clements describes himself as being reserved who thrives around positive people. He said he hopes that cool and calmness rubs off on his students throughout his time with them.
“Life is short and you have to appreciate each opportunity God gives you,” Clements said. “I’m always positive and try to remain positive and have a positive outlook.”
Whether on the golf course, in the classroom or protecting the country, Clements outlook is bound to shine on everyone he comes across.
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