I’ve always had a passion for education. That passion didn’t just come to be—it was instilled in me by my father, who constantly reminded me that I could achieve anything as long as I made school my number-one priority. My father came to this country from Liberia with the goal of attaining an education. With that education, he went from a life of poverty in a third world country to living the American Dream, and he never let me forget it.
My passion is what inspired me to participate in MinnCAN’s #EdWishList contest, during which—in honor of MinnCAN’s third birthday—people shared their three wishes for public schools, in 140 characters or less. It’s hard to describe a vision for education in 140 characters, especially because I am not a teacher or on the frontlines of our schools. But I am a caring citizen who would like to see the best for our kids, so I wrote the following list, which ultimately won the #EdWishList contest:
- Reduce the achievement gap
- Create learning tailored to strengths and gifts of all children
- Help all kids be college-bound
Even though we live in a state with some of the best public schools in the country, Minnesota also has the worst achievement gaps. That means that our children of color are performing worse than white students at a higher rate than any other state in the country. That’s heartbreaking. That’s unacceptable. That needs some serious attention. Fortunately, Minnesota is taking steps to amend this problem, and I hope to see more improvements in the near future.
My second wish is to tailor learning to the strengths and gifts of all children. There is no one concrete way to teach, and learning is not one size fits all. Some of our kids might be talented in science; others might be great at creative arts, and some may not even know what they’re great at yet. I think our schools should help children figure out and play to their strengths, instead of expecting kids to follow a strict formula. It’s very important to help children be well-rounded, but it’s also important to allow them to explore, to discover and to grow. They might all have the right answer, just different ways of arriving at it.
Lastly, I would love to see schools help all kids go on to higher education. When I was in high school, Advanced Placement classes pushed kids towards higher education, but those classes were reserved for the “smart kids,” while other students were left to succeed at mediocrity. What if we helped ALL of our children achieve excellence? What if we encouraged all kids to strive for their best? What if we created a learning environment that pushed every child to be college-bound? What if we helped all kids reach their full potential of awesomeness? Studies have shown that more and more jobs are requiring a college degree. Our kids will only have that chance if we help them achieve it.
I hope one day these things won’t just be on a wish list, but a reality for all kids across our nation.
Winning the #Edwishlist contest allowed me to donate $300 to a school of my choice through DonorsChoose.org. I donated to Mrs. Carlson-Huxford at North View Junior High in Brooklyn Park, who needed books for a classroom of eager readers. Not only do I have an affinity for North View—my junior high school alma mater—but I think Mrs. Carlson-Huxford is working toward all of the things described in my wish list. Teachers like her keep classrooms thriving and help our children reach their full potential.
Thanks, MinnCAN, for organizing this contest and helping me share my vision for public schools!