Inspired by teacher’s philanthropy, Nathaniel Snow ’00, M.Ed. ’12 strives to serve those in need
By Jesús F. Jiménez, assistant director of digital content
“You’re about to go up under a bridge with these people?!”
It truly was unlike anything Nathaniel Snow ’00, M.Ed. ’12 had ever seen before: His third-grade teacher, Bertha Roscoe, serving home-cooked meals to 45 homeless people under a bridge in downtown Cincinnati.
Nathaniel always admired Ms. Roscoe and her kindness. Unbeknownst to him, she was equally inspired by his selflessness and perseverance, even from a young age.
Now an eighth-grade math teacher and a youth pastor in Cincinnati, Nathaniel is continuing Ms. Roscoe’s compassionate legacy through his “Snow Covered Angels” nonprofit organization.
Every month for the past year, Nathaniel and his wife, Nicole, have driven around Cincinnati to provide blankets, coats, food, haircuts and other essentials to those in need.
“It came out of the situation of us reflecting, during this whole pandemic, a lot of people were affected,” Nathaniel said. “Although my wife and I were affected, we were able to still maintain and sustain our house and the things that we were a part of. We had decided once a month to feed the homeless and offer some type of service.”
‘Patriarch of the family’
Ms. Roscoe’s story is inspirational in itself.
After attending segregated schools in 1950s Alabama, she fought to attend the University of Cincinnati and went on to teach for 32 years. Nathaniel was unlike any other third-grader she ever had.
“He was 8 years old, and even then, he was an awesome kid,” she said. “He’s more like the patriarch of the whole family even though he’s younger than anyone else.”
She remembers Nathaniel talking about cooking for himself while his mother was working, which she found fascinating in a third-grader.
However, it was Ms. Roscoe’s home-cooked meals that started changing Nathaniel’s life. She provided them for him and his classmates before holiday breaks.
“I just thought she did it because she liked to cook. But she did that because we had students who were so unfortunate. She knew they weren’t going to have a Thanksgiving dinner,” Nathaniel said.
Ms. Roscoe also provided essential school supplies to her underprivileged students. As he got older, Nathaniel learned that Ms. Roscoe did this every one of her 32-year career.
‘The stories of the homeless’
Outside of school, Ms. Roscoe volunteered at a drop-in center for homeless people in Cincinnati. After she learned that many would not go into the center, she started taking the center’s services around the city – yes, even under bridges.
Nathaniel kept in contact with her, and when he was in high school, joined her for one of these projects.
“I was kind of thinking, ‘You’re about to go up under a bridge with these people?’ and she said, ‘Yes,’” Nathaniel recalls. “She had her tables, she had her generator and she had her crockpots and things, and she sat down and had this feast.”
Ms. Roscoe noticed something about Nathaniel’s interactions with the homeless. Every stop, he would grab a plate for himself, but take only small portions.
“At first, I didn’t understand,” Ms. Roscoe said. “He would stand there and eat with the other people so they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable.”
What Nathaniel was also doing was hearing their stories. Many had mental health issues or other traumas that made it difficult to hold jobs.
“What I learned is a lot of people are homeless, not because they chose to be homeless,” Nathaniel said. “What I kept finding out, a lot of our homeless people are war veterans. People who were discharged for whatever reason, and there were some mental things there, but kind of fell off the grid.”
Making a difference
Nathaniel strived to be like Ms. Roscoe in almost every way. Teaching? Not quite. A dynamic math and science student, he wasn’t sure what career he’d pursue, but a senior assignment in high school changed that. Nathaniel was tasked to research a profession that he didn’t know much about. He picked teaching.
“At the time I did my research, out of all the teachers in the United States, only 2% were African American males,” Nathaniel said. “Of the 2%, only 37% taught an academic subject – the other 63% taught art – either music, gym or art or something to that nature.”
He was inspired to change that and was attracted by Miami’s solid education program.
“This was the perfect place,” he said.
Originally a football recruit, Nathaniel found his niche with the Tau Xi Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He continued to serve the community through the fraternity as well as the Black Student Action Association and the Miami University Gospel Singers. He started Voices of Color, a student organization that allowed students to express Open Word at the Miami Art Center.
Often, Nathaniel would purchase pizzas and hand them out to less fortunate people around Oxford. He also adopted families from local elementary schools and tutored kids struggling with math and science. He would donate gifts to some of those families during the holidays.
Now in his 22nd year as a teacher, Nathaniel is working toward a Ph.D. online through Loyola University in Chicago. Math is just a fraction of the lessons he teaches. The spirit of giving. The legacy of Ms. Roscoe. The Miami Love and Honor. The stories of the homeless. Every gift he gives spreads a little bit of all those things.
“Nathaniel has always been involved and committed to serving the community,” said Rodney Coates, professor of critical race and ethnic studies at Miami. “His commitment challenges us all to take our privilege and help those with less. I am proud of his accomplishments, both while here and in the real world, where he is making a difference.”