For five years I mentored a student in Alexandria, Virginia.
He lived with his grandparents in the same “Berg” housing projects made famous in the Denzel Washington movie Remember the Titans. During my time with this young man I witnessed a series of personal tragedies beginning in fifth-grade. His two younger half-brothers were taken from his home and sent to foster care. His 15 year-old-sister gave birth to a baby boy and dropped out of school. His grandmother went blind and had her toes amputated from diabetes. He joined a gang. He was convicted of assault and sent to juvenile detention. He was expelled from school. His grandfather had a heart attack and died in his arms. I wish there was a happy ending, but I lost touch with him shortly after his grandfather passed away. That was about four years ago and still on quiet mornings while I drink my coffee, I can’t help but think about this handsome young man, wondering if he is now dead or in prison? In our information
That was about four years ago and still on quiet mornings while I drink my coffee, I can’t help but think about this handsome young man, wondering if he is now dead or in prison? In our information age we have plenty of statistics, but not enough faces to look us in the eye and remind us how destructive our communities and systems can be when young people slip through the cracks.
In a new documentary, Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) helps people remember the faces that accompany the statistics.
In Waiting for Superman he creates a dagger of a film that cuts to the heart. It vividly reminds us that when schools fail it is the children that suffer. Currently, about one in three students nationally fail to graduate high school, and that number is closer to 50 percent for minority students. Frankly, the time for panic was here back when the fabled Titans won their state championship. It is not too late, but we must act quickly and we must act boldly.
As a first step, I recommend that people see Waiting for Superman and host forums to discuss how afterschool programs, schools and communities can all work hand-in-hand to ensure that students are provided the supports they need to read at grade-level, attend school regularly and have access to the best and brightest role-models and teachers. America’s Promise Alliance has a guide to help. And we cannot forget the data. There are many great companies that are helping many communities collect and use student data across schools, afterschool programs and community sites that may be helpful to you.
As the film hints in the title, there is no superman coming to rescue America’s children, but we do have each other. Are you ready to fly?
Best regards and thank you.
Oh, and my breakfast today was honey-drizzled Cheerios and a handful of walnuts, washed down with coffee, the nectar of life.
Author: Richard Wells