Recently the New Town Success Zone celebrated its inaugural high school completion class and while that may not sound like such a big deal to some in the grand scheme of things it’s a HUGE accomplishment for a number of reason. First and foremost the 6 people graduating represent 20 or more children. That in and of itself allows twenty children to now say my mother or father DID graduate from high school. Secondly, the graduating class represents what I have said since day one the New Town Success Zone is all about the development of a true continuum of care, where we not only focus on the needs of the children, but their caregivers as well.
See what I have come to understand through my last 6 or so years of doing this work is you cannot truly gain ground with children if they don’t see hope manifested within their immediate surroundings. Under normal circumstances the wherewithal to swim against the current is difficult. However, if you add issues of poverty and the subsequent issues associated with poverty the challenge becomes almost insurmountable. The attainment of a high school diploma by a parent or caregiver after the fact says to the children we work with education is important and it mitigates some of the academic envy we inadvertently create when we gear our efforts solely to kids and not their family.
While the consequences of academic envy are often times unintended the effects are still very real. Externally, what it says to parents or caregivers who are often times struggling economically is that you have had your chance and it is up to us (i.e. some well intended “program”) to step in and somehow make your kid whole or in some cases save them entirely from a similar fate. Internally, what is communicated to the children is your future is better off in the hands of someone or something else (i.e. some well intended “program”) because I am not equipped to help you based upon my pass failures or transgressions.
Finally, this is not to suggest neither we nor I have found the secret sauce for moving anyone out of poverty that is way to complex for this space. However, it is to suggest that what we have found is that when we make the needs of the parents or caregivers just as important to our work the children are the ultimate benefactors. What I do know is that despite whatever hardships Charlie or Frances or Bruce or Kuturrah may be experiencing and no matter where they are on the moral or economic dial of life they ultimately want what’s best for their children.
Therefore, as I celebrate and congratulate our GED graduates I say to each of them let your high school completion serve as your boots courtesy of the New Town Success Zone and may this allow you to pull you and your family up by the proverbial boot straps.
This is MY TRUTH and I AM Sticking to it…
Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen