This blog was first published on the MCUVO!CE website and appears with permission by the author, first-time Breakfast Club Blogger Marcus Strother. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
As an educator, I have been able to work with a multitude of students. As a professional, I have been able to learn from a number of great mentors. I have allowed both of these opportunities to guide me on my journey as a youth advocate. I am involved with a very powerful organization called SAAB/B2B (Student African American Brotherhood/ Brother 2 Brother), which is a male mentoring program that works with young men from middle school through college. I have also founded a sister program called Sister Circle, as well as a youth leadership development initiative called LEAAP (Leaders Empowered to Achieve Anything Possible.) I give this memo as a guide to all my fellow educators.
In working with young people, I often get asked this question. How are you successful with this work? Now, at this point, I could become deliberately analytic with my answer. I could share how we don’t just study leadership, we practice it! I could speak to the workshops and youth summits that we hold. I could be extremely detailed with the network of men, like Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe, Alonzo Jones, Lasana Hotep, Bryant Smith, Kent Wade, Jamal Hawkins, Dan Harris, or Terrance Range, that offer knowledge to our young people. For me, I always like to keep it simple and I provide the answer to this question in a very simplistic form.
My answer: “I provide my young people with an opportunity.”
From the moment we are given air to breathe, there is a distinct ‘Natural Destiny” that has been chosen for us, given to us from our parents. Many times, people are destined to become the environment they are conditioned within. If we grow up in a certain neighborhood, have a certain type of parent or go to a certain school, all of these things play into the “Natural Destiny” we are born with.
How we change that “Natural Destiny” is by simply providing opportunity.
As an educator, I am not fixated on just the Math, Science, and History part of school. All of these subjects play a part, but without reason to apply the knowledge given, many of our students will not find it necessary to learn. Education is about the whole human, not just about the traditional norms that we pass off as education every day. I challenge our readers today to build the character of a person through genuine opportunities to learn. It is time for our society to move away from tradition to challenge this new generation of student. The world is at their disposal, yet we, as an educational system work hard to keep them confined to what makes us, as adults, feel comfortable.
I truly believe that ALL students want to do well. Some students intrinsically don’t know how. Some parents, by “Natural Destiny,” don’t know how. If we are going to be a part of the lives of these young people, then we have to be prepared to give them opportunities with purpose. The student, who is planning to go to beauty or barber school, may not find value in Trigonometry. They may, however, find value in business classes, or high school developed beauty and barber programs. Educating young people on purpose, through meaningful opportunities, will create hope for a better future and sustainable livelihood.
“You maybe 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, and some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
This quote rings true for me today, as I am 38 years old and I have found my purpose. I challenge to find your purpose when working with young people. I work to teach my students to grab hold of all the opportunities given.
Opportunity, by definition, simply reads: “A set of circumstances that make it possible to do something.”
This is what I attempt to do every day. We, as adults working with young people, should fight to do this every day. Provide a set of circumstances that will allow our young people to do something. The something does not have to be a big something and it doesn’t have to be a small something–it just has to matter. Take young people to conferences so that they can learn how to network and how to take in information. Build opportunities to expand their textual lineage, so that they can have intelligent conversations, with a developed mind. Be available to talk. Hold financial awareness seminars. Get them involved in their home community through Farmer’s Markets, library programs, community stakeholders, City officials, and more. If you provide them an opportunity to do well, their ability to do well will increase.
With all of the students I work with, I look at all that can be done. We have read books like “The Freedom Writers Diary” with Erin Gruwell and “How to Get Out Of Your Own Way” by Tyrese. We have traveled to New York, Indianapolis, and the Dominican Republic. We are currently beginning a new relationship with the Center for Arabic Language and Culture so that our students can learn the Arabic language as a means to globally expand their opportunities.
I encourage anyone that is working with students to think big.
There are philanthropists, grants, and community stakeholders that will help provide financial support to the work. I have found that providing genuine opportunities for students to grow as a person has helped them be invested in the work, and once they are invested, there is no stopping what they can do.
Creating Opportunities and Passing on HOPE is the ultimate goal of the H.E.A.LL.TH Project. Build an opportunity for growth. Nurture that opportunity and sustain it with personal development, enriched discussion, enlightening information, and empowering moments.
For breakfast, I had toast and coffee.