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His Students Call Him "Dad"

Award-winning school principal Hayward Jean shares how he made the best of a painful childhood. Read Transcript

Welcome back to "The 700 Club."

Mellichamp Elementary School has gone from an F rating

to an A rating in just one year.

Can you imagine?

That's thanks to the leadership of its principal, Hayward Jean.

It's one of the reasons he received

a presidential citation for Educator of the Year.

Take a look.

NARRATOR: Hayward Jean is an award

winning elementary school principal in Orangeburg, South


Many of his students call him dad, a name he wears proudly.

Hayward was two when his own dad abandoned his family,

leaving them to a life of hardship and poverty.

As a teen, he threw fits of rage and often considered suicide.

Hayward shares how he overcame the obstacles and pain

from his childhood to become a respected beloved school

principal, devoted to giving kids a better start in life.

And please welcome to "The 700 Club" Hayward Jean.

Hayward, it's very nice to meet you.

Hey, it's good to meet you also.

First of all, congratulations on the progress of your school.

That's fantastic, going from an F to an A.

But why do so many of your students call you dad?

Thank you so much.

Well, in 2013 though, from the F to an A

are several-- three schools actually

in my district did that.

And thanks to great leadership and back in 2013-- and now

we're rebuilding.

And in that process, I built a lot of relationships

with students.

And so many of them call me dad I believe,

is because they see a nurturing father.

Again, I say-- they say there's no prayer in schools,

but I didn't get that memo.

Because I walk in prayer all the time.

I think that praying spirit causes me to see them

as not just students, but the children of souls in need

of love, love of a father.

You grew up without a father.

How did that affect you?

I think it affected me in several ways

because it allowed me to kind of realize

that everybody needs a dad.

Now I had uncles who loved me and treated me

like their own, big cousins treating me like their own.

But there was something missing, because there

was something about me that I didn't know about.

And so I think I went through life not knowing all of who

I was supposed to be.

Where'd you get to college, by the way?

Claflin University Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Yes, yes.

All right.

Give them a shout out.

Great school.

Well, by the time you got there,

you were a pretty angry guy.

What were you so angry about?

Well, I think it was a lot of internal thoughts,

a lot of internal issues.

Just really going through transition of life.

Trying to learn and find out who I am and who-- what am I

supposed to do in this world.

So I was a part of a program entitled Call Me Mister.

That program changed my life because Call Me Mister

empowered me to see that I can be a father figure for kids

who did not have one.

And so in that, I'm struggling to learn my identity.

And it wasn't until I learned who Christ is

and who he can be in my life, is what I really

learn who my identity-- what my identity was,

and the love of a real father, my Heavenly Father.

So when you were just two years old,

your father abandoned the family.

Well, when we were two, we were living in New York,

and a lot of issues there.

He kind of abandoned us there.

And we left and came down to South Carolina, yes.

But then when you were a young man, you got a call.

You got a voicemail from him.

What happened?

Well, the voicemail-- it was--

I call it the call heard around the world

because right after coming out of prayer, we talked

about my transition in college and learning Christ,

a friend of mine named Mark Joseph started a prayer circle.

And during the time of the 9/11 attacks--

and that kind of rocked me to my core.

It helped me to see that life is so precious.

And now I wasn't trying to be saved in order to--

because I was afraid to die, but I wanted to know who I was.

And so in that time, right after we came out

of one of our prayer sessions, I went and got

to my dormitory room, and there was

one voicemail left on my phone, on my answering machine.

And it rocked me to my core.

And it was my dad.

Now my dad is Haitian.

So he said, this is dad.

Want to talk to you.

Call me back.

And it sounded like he was in an empty space.

And from there, it helped me see that maybe there's

an opportunity to build a relationship that I've always


And did that happen?

It did not happen.

And then that was the challenge of going through life

and having Christ as my stability.

Because I sought that.

We thought we were going to have an experience.

As a matter of fact, we attended a concert in New York.

I was singing on the concert choir, Claflin University,

and we went to New York.

And we said OK, we're going to track him down.

We're going to find him.

And so we went to New York and met him

on the streets of Manhattan and we found him.

And it was a brief conversation.

It wasn't much at all.

We were there for three days and didn't even see him

until the very last day.

He picked us up in a taxi and took us to our hotel

with no conversation.

So I asked him, I said dad, are you OK?

He said yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

But that was it.

And so I said OK, what is it about me that he does not like?

And so it caused me again to question who I was.

And it wasn't until I had my own son--

my son-- and I held my son in my arms.

And I said, man.

My first son.

I said wow, my dad missed all of this?

He didn't want this?

And that was when I realized that although I thought

I had forgiveness, I didn't really

have forgiveness in my heart.

Was he not a believer?

He was not a believer.

And so I again--

so I walked around with numbness in my heart.

And I thought numbness meant forgive forgiveness.

Because you thought there was something wrong with you.


Exactly, so in going through that numbness

or feeling like my dad didn't want me that God realized

hey, if you don't forgive him, then how

can I actually forgive you?

And so it accessed a power in me that I've

been walking in ever since.

And so I released my dad.

I had to release him.

Was it a situation where he just couldn't give

what he had never received?

That's what I believe.

I really believe that.

Because I'm telling when you, when

you receive the forgiveness of a father,

it not only gives you power, it also gives you authority.

That authority caused me to not hate my father,

but I almost feel sorry for him in a sense.

Yeah, he missed out.

Because he missed out.

You're a really awesome guy.

Well hey, I glorify God for that.

And so when I [INAUDIBLE] said I realize that.

I say you know what?

Maybe my dad was hurt himself.

And so now I intercede for him like never before.

Because I'm enjoying life.

And I don't want to--

Is there any communication at all?

No communication at all.

Well maybe he's going to be watching "The 700 Club" today.

Let's hope so.

I think he'd probably like that.

But you've forgiven him?

I've totally released him because I

can't pay a price for a crime that I didn't commit.

You know, that was something he did.

And so I wanted him to be released.

And so he can be loved.

Say that again.

You can't pay a price--

I don't want to do the time for somebody who did the crime.

He did it.

He committed the act.

And so forgiving him frees me actually.

And so in doing that, I've been walking

in a power that I just can't explain

and a joy that I just can't explain.

And ironically, or maybe not ironically,

in the Kingdom of God everything's backward,

you've become a dad to so many curators as an educator.

You think your past has actually been a benefit?

Oh, all the way.

All the way.

And because through that, I learned

through [INAUDIBLE] father.

My spiritual father's name is Pastor Shanewell.

He empowered me.

He taught me about perfect love and how

it casted out all fear, even the fear of absentee of a father.

And so in that, and being a dad myself, and a father to those

who grew up just like me, I realized oh, you know what?

My life had purpose.

My life has purpose.

And that everything that I went through,

all things work together for the good to them that love God.

And [INAUDIBLE] into his purposes.

So I believe that I've been called

and what came through that so that I

can show other young people how to go through the same thing.

And it's been exciting.

And I know your roots are from Haiti,

but you've ever been there.

And I'm not bragging, but I've been to Haiti.

You've got-- for the first time this year.

And I really feel like when you visit

Haiti, that there's going to be something's going to happen.

I believe that.

I'm excited about that.

Actually we had the-- at my school,

we had a chance to receive for the first time ever,

a president of a country.

And it was the former president of Haiti.

So I don't believe everything is a coincidence at all.

God's got something for you in Haiti.

I don't know what it is, but I'm just feeling that right now.

All right, well, so nice to meet you.

And to hear more about Hayward Jean,

just go to our Facebook page.

We have a social exclusive interview with him there.

You can watch it at

Hayward Jean, God bless you.

Hey, bless you also.

So good to meet you.

Great testimony.

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