“We have to do right by our boys.” -President Obama
After a week long conference for expanded learning professionals in Palm Springs, I’m reminded of how important my role is in the lives of our youth. The BOOST Conference is more than just a place to convene and exchange ideas, for many of us, it’s a time to reflect and recharge with close friends from the field. This year was no different. But this year, more than others, I was able to see myself outside of the work and was able to see the bigger picture.
We had two amazing speakers from the White House and Department of Justice, both speaking about President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. Both shared stories that moved me to tears as I saw myself in each of the young boys we work with. Jesse, our representative from the White House, shared with us the story of President Obama’s reaction to the Zimmerman acquittal. The President, walking unexpectedly into the press briefing room, says to the shocked team, “we have to do right by our boys.” There were no cameras, no recorders to catch a sound bite.
This was the President’s call to action. In that moment, he was the embodiment of My Brother’s Keeper.
Although I still had an amazing time at BOOST, I found myself in a haze between sessions – almost lost. I couldn’t figure it out. It was a time of deep reflection and for processing all the conversations. It wasn’t until the Friday morning session that I began to piece the puzzle together. In a room full of researchers and data collectors it was clear to me where I stood. Although I’m not classically trained to be a researcher, I’m not afraid of data or how to approach provocative questions.
I sat and listened to researchers talk about causation and what their data tells them and it dawned on me, this is not really a dialogue, this is a monologue. The room was made up of researchers who had limited to no practitioner knowledge (or recent experience in the field). Researchers talking to researchers. Some might say I was in the wrong room but I disagree.
My voice needed to be in the discussion because I represent the practitioners who work with our students. My brother, a veteran of the field and my mentor, likes to call us “translators” because we can code switch between the practitioner and the researcher. We can code switch between the principal and the site lead.
This was my big connection.
Being a translator works for My Brother’s Keeper as well. We translate for the young boy who grew up without a father and the teacher who went to prestigious college and acquired no loan debt. We translate for the student acting up in class because he hasn’t eaten all day and the assistant principal sees a wannabe thug who has no drive. I saw these translations as underlying theme in my work. We speak for those who cannot speak and we act for those who are too shy.
As to the questions of what am I here for and why am I here? I am not bigger than this movement. I am only a part of a group of amazing individuals that work endlessly to translate for our students. I am lucky enough to be a part of the conversations that influence decisions and I know that responsibility that holds. When I feel like I don’t need to be in this field or this field doesn’t need me, I will remember, I am a translator, I am My Brother’s Keeper.
Get more information here for: My Brother’s Keeper in Expanded Learning.