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Santa ambassador earns doctorate from UNC Charlotte

Titus Hopper, also known as "Santa Titus," is graduating with the goal of expanding representation and possibilities for younger generations.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As UNC Charlotte begins its spring commencement this weekend, over 5,000 students will be walking the graduation stage.

But one man who is graduating from the Cato College of Education with a doctorate in educational leadership received a little help from the North Pole. 

Titus Hopper, a career readiness coordinator for Cleveland County Schools, represents a growing, but still small percent, of Black men who are graduating with doctoral degrees in the United States.

Hooper's dissertation was on the representation of Black male principals and what motivates them to work in rural North Carolina school districts, a fitting topic for someone who's life's work has an underlying theme of representation.

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Born and raised in Cleveland County, Hopper believes in helping others understand that they do not have to move away in order to have a worldwide impact.

"I believe that some of the best kept secrets to our state, some of the most talented people are sometimes in rural hidden away counties. And I just believe we need to tap that resource, because there's some talent in those communities," said Hopper.

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Hopper hopes that his decision to pursue higher education as a Black man will motivate younger people like him to pursue their goals and remain engaged in school.

Credit: WCNC

"I want to be a mirror," said Hopper. "For those who look like me, younger students, younger grad students, whoever that is, one, they see me they can see themselves as well as a window where they can see me and also see future possibilities."

READ MORE: 'It's not about me' | First Black head of school of Trinity Episcopal School knows how important her role is

The themes of representation, support and changing lives transcends to another part of Hopper's life -- as a Santa ambassador

Hopper was commissioned as a Santa ambassador and, since 2017, has represented Santas of color. Known in the Christmas world as "Hop the Black Santa" or "Santa Titus," Hopper is a source of joy for everyone he meets.

Hop the Black Santa's vision is to "catalyze smiles and sow sees of hope for clients holiday festivities."

Credit: WCNC
Santa Titus

"So one vivid memory is I'm representing Santa at a photo for many sessions here actually in Charlotte and a mother and her family comes in," Hopper recalled. "She opens the door. She sees me. Her mouth drops. She hands her baby to her husband, and she runs over to embrace me and she's crying."

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"The persona, the attitude, and really, it's just a way of life. It's just nice to be nice. And guess what? Santa is nice. Therefore every ambassador has to be nice has to show goodwill," said Hopper.

On Friday, Hopper graduates and he will be the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony.

While he won’t be walking the stage in his Santa suit, Hopper knows there’s a gift from the North Pole waiting for him at home from Santa himself. 

Shamarria Morrison: Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.  


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