Earlier this month, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) issued a press release announcing that the “Number of APS seniors taking SAT college entrance exam soars to 90% thanks to high school principals, counselors and Achieve Atlanta.” This year’s result is 33 percentage points higher than the Class of 2018. This is a huge deal.
I was always an involved kid, doing volunteer work, serving as high school student body president, and I come from a family of people who are deep into the education world as well as that of the public good. Their influence and support has allowed me – and inspired me – to make bold moves. To say, “This is what I want to do; this is where I want to be, and I’m going to stop at nothing to get there.”
It’s back-to-school season, and across Atlanta, students are getting ready for their first day of school. Some will be advancing a grade toward high school graduation, while others will be stepping onto a college campus in pursuit of a degree. During this season, at Achieve Atlanta we spend a lot of time anchoring ourselves in our vision. Our North Star. Our view of the future we want to see. Or as we like to say at Achieve Atlanta, our Bold Expectation.
The admission cheating revelations and arrests show that college is highly valuable. Look at the lengths that wealthy parents – whose kids are already wealthy – will go to in order to get them into the “right” schools.When I first read about the college admission cheating scam, my initial instinct was to run to Facebook and post, “Shoutout to all my affirmative action peeps who got into college without bribes!” I also saw similar self-congratulatory posts from many groups about how they had “made it on our own.” But I quickly realized that we were all missing the point. For each of us who “figured it out” by ourselves, there were countless other poor and disenfranchised kids who couldn’t.
In preparation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I reread the text of a sermon MLK gave days before his assassination, entitled Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution. One section stood out for me. Dr. King, referencing the Declaration of Independence, extolled: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’ But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists. We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago.
‘Tis the season at Achieve Atlanta! We’re busily working to close out the fall semester on a strong footing, reflecting on what we’ve learned and accomplished in 2018, and setting our intentions for the new year. During 2018, we served more than 6,000Atlanta Public Schools students and graduates. We worked to help them get to college, pay for college and succeed in college.
College students, I urge you to use your power and your voice next Tuesday, November 6. You are in college because you have hopes and dreams for yourself, your family and your future. You are working hard, learning complex new things and advocating for yourself in order to reach your goals. Part of advocating for yourself must include exercising your right to vote.
As a parent of two APS students, an advocate for educational equity, and someone who leads an organization dedicated to ensuring APS graduates can be successful in college, I’ve researched and reflected a lot about what students need, but this question caught me off guard. I can only list 3 things? Is it Reading? Comprehension? Writing? Analysis? Computation? Scientific Method? Time-management? Self-regulation? The list of possible choices is endless. But when I paused to think about my own children, and what skills I’ve tried to encourage in them, the answer came into focus.
A few weeks ago, some friends and I were talking about all the jobs we held in college. Some of us worked at campus libraries, others cleaned dorm room toilets. A few worked in the cafeteria or in administrative jobs at one of the several departments on campus. Probably one of my favorite jobs was staying at school once classes ended, working as a barback at alumni reunions – where I learned that old people drink liquor straight, no mixer. According to a recent report released this week from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, working too many hours can negatively impact student GPAs and decrease the likelihood of college graduation,
Although it’s only August, school started last week for Atlanta Public Schools and I’m settling into the new routine at home and work. At home, this is a big year for us as Franky, our first-born, enters his senior year. I’m feeling lots of emotions—sadness, excitement, anxiety—about his pending graduation and the fact that he’ll be headed to college soon. We feel the ground shifting under our family unit of four and are trying to stay steady as this inevitable and ultimately desirable change happens.