“Believe In These Kids, And They Will Not Disappoint You,” asserts an English teacher at the Navajo Nation’s Chinle High School
These fortunate, grateful, wise student scholars and professionals are familiar with that gift of belief:
“People believe in us and they want the best for us,” remarked Anthony Anderson in a recent conversation.
“Believe in us,” asserted Braswell when we recently spoke. And when returning to speak to youth at the juvenile facility where he was in solitary confinement at the age of 12, Ryan Speedo Green, now a professional opera singer, said, “I believe in you, I believe in you, I believe in you.”
Profiles Illustrating The Power Of That Belief
Braswell: Junior year, at a public high school in SE Washington, through friends in a non-profit Mathletes program Braswell learned of a college-readiness program that attracted him. This took his life on the road less traveled, unfamiliar to students in southeast DC. Says Braswell, “in a cargo van packed with students visiting colleges in North Carolina and Florida, I learned there’s more than Alabama Avenue.” He hadn’t traveled before or been outside the neighborhood.“Mr. Penniman helped me to open my eyes.” After completing his graduate degree in Education at the University of Arizona, Braswell now works as the school’s first Black Student Recruitment Coordinator.
Fabricio: What he has accomplished at only 24, arriving in this country as a kid from El Salvador who lived in poverty, and attended a DC charter school, is admirable and remarkable. When I asked him, would you be where you are today if your 10th grade teacher hadn’t noticed your “love for math” and directed you to Mr. P. (Mathletes) and Ms. Barbara (a tutor)? “Absolutely not!” He overcame one hurdle upon another. If these individuals hadn’t appeared he wouldn’t be a successful IT professional who purchased a home in the DC suburbs “for his parents”, where he and his sister also live. “I told my Mom I was going to be the last in the family to live in poverty.”
Anthony: He had the good fortune of ending up in a DC public school that ranks in the top 7% of US schools, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Someone from his middle school urged Anthony to audition. Though he never sang or acted, Anthony says, " A reading teacher who saw how much I acted out thought to direct me toward acting, and auditioning for the Duke Ellington School to redirect that energy toward a positive outcome". And Anthony, “winged it” at his audition; accepted to the school, “at 14 I knew I was destined to go that path”. Later, as a high school Junior he and opera clicked. A teacher took interest in him, and Anthony connected with his church pianist, who became a mentor. Little did he know then, he’d be headed into opera, and receive a full scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Learn of roadblocks he faced; watch a short Today Show segment.
Keanu: As a basketball player on the Navajo Reservation’s Chinle High School Basketball team the basketball coach served as a pivotal person in his and his teammates’ lives. For Keanu, his English teacher did as well. Writes Michael Powell in Canyon Dreams, “Keanu typed his college essays on his cell phone and transcribed them when he got to school… As Keanu’s trailer lacked anything like an internet connection, he lugged his laptop to the Burger King in Chinle where he worked as a cashier…logged on and closed his eyes and asked God and the Holy People for help… He was knocking at a door to an unknown world…. He got into Swarthmore. And Dartmouth. And Brown, Columbia, Case Western, and Harvard… Five months later he would board a plane and land in Boston and matriculate at Harvard.”
Arshay Cooper: Says Arshay Cooper in his book, A Most Beautiful Thing; The True Story of America’s All-Black Rowing Team, “Ken and Victory Outreach have taught me to have vision and to see where I want to be and what to do to get there.” And in the Epilogue, he writes, “I can never thank Ken enough for throwing me into the water because the sport of crew changed my life." Purchase this book to read his gripping story that begins in the 90's on the rough streets of Chicago's west side.
Ryan Speedo Green (an accomplished opera star whose remarkable story is told in Sing for Your Life), Wes Moore (author of the NYT bestseller, The Other Wes Moore; One Name, Two Fates), Arshay Cooper (author of A Most Beautiful Thing; The True Story of America’s First All-Black High School Rowing Team; now a documentary) have published books (available on our Eye-Opening Stories page) about their riveting and remarkable journeys, filled with ups and downs. While these are heartwarming stories, there’s heartbreak on the other side knowing that way too many students caught in our inequitable education system will never be blessed with the serendipitous good fortune of pivotal people who set the stage for achievement and upward mobility.
Often Just One Individual Serves As A Platform For Change, The Skateboard With Which To Soar
Facilitate Belief And Achievement - Mentor A Student, Or Help With Literacy. You can be a pivotal person for youth attending our many underperforming, under-resourced schools, who live in working-hard-to-get-by families that can’t afford to live in the zip codes with high-performing schools. Often both the student and the parent work minimum wage jobs. And that’s where we and you and others come in to break that cycle and watch a student soar: high school degree, scholarships, college degrees, and fulfilling professions!
Many 9th graders read well below their grade-level. Volunteer a couple hours a week to elevate essential skills for success. Choose your city and do as I did for results: searching literacy programs in Washington, DC. And this link has volunteer opportunities throughout the US.
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Stay Well and Cultivate Belief and Achievement in 2021!
MaryAnn, Chief Engagement Officer and Founder