Thursday, November 4, 2010

Grab Your Cape!

Waiting for Superman has made us all realize that change needs to happen within our educational system.  However, this paradigm shift in education will take time.  So what can be done immediately while a longer term plan is put into place?  The answer: Grab your cape and become a superhero! 

Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama during the late 1960s and 1970s, I learned the importance of education.  My mother was an English teacher at a local high school, and my father was then Dean of the Music School at Samford University.  My mother always taught me that “Education levels the playing field.”  That is why she would take an hour each week to sit down at the kitchen table with Flora, our African American cleaning lady, and teach her how to read and write.  Years later when Flora died from cancer, her sisters told my mother that a highlight of Flora’s life was learning how to read and write during those hours spent at the kitchen table with my mother.  Flora no longer had to sign her name with an “x” and she could read what she was signing. Even in her seventies, my mother still volunteered at local high schools and tutored at-risk students. She also designed remedial English programs to help struggling students understand the basic concepts of grammar.
My father also “grabbed a cape.”  He invested in the lives of students by setting aside and raising “seed money” to help educate students that otherwise couldn’t afford that opportunity.  In 1985, my parents flew to Rio de Janeiro to spend Christmas with me.  At that time I was earning a Master’s Degree in International Business at The University of South Caroline and was assigned to work at an international company in Rio as an intern.  My father was president of Palm Beach Atlantic University (then college).  During brunch, my father started a conversation with Edson who was waiting tables.   Edson had grown up in a favela, or rather one of the shanty towns made of cardboard houses on the hills of Rio.  A few days later, my dad offered Edson a full scholarship to Palm Beach Atlantic University.   However, my father told Edson that he must pay his own way to get to Florida.  My father knew the importance of a student personally investing in his/her own future to ensure commitment.  After a few years, Edson raised enough money to get to Florida and not only attended undergraduate school at PBAU but also earned an MBA there. After a successful career, Edson returned to Rio where he now helps educate children living in the favelas.  Education truly levels the playing field and empowers children with hope for a future. Learn more about that here.
What can an individual do right now?  Volunteer!  Check in with your local schools and offer your expertise.  Turn education into an action verb.  Grab your superhero cape!  Make a difference. In the process, you will change the nation one student at a time. 

Please share how you have “grabbed a cape” to make a difference.

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