Achieve Atlanta Scholars, For the last few days I have been grieving for George Floyd, who was murdered in broad daylight by a police officer. I also grieve for countless other Black people whose lives have been unjustly terminated because of their race. I grieve for those who continue to be persecuted because of their religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or immigration status. I grieve that our country has not lived up to its promise or potential. I grieve for all we have lost and will continue to lose due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taylor Ramsey is the Executive Director of OneGoal Metro Atlanta, one of our College Access Partners. Prior to this role, Taylor served as VP of training and support at Teach For America, leading their national summer teacher training institute, overseeing a team of 100 staff members, working in close concert with APS to serve summer school students, and training over 1,800 teachers. As a first-generation college student, Taylor knows the power of a postsecondary opportunity and is honored to lead OneGoal as part of the broader Achieve Atlanta education effort, in partnership with APS.
Leaders across our community are envisioning a new world. At Achieve Atlanta, our students are doing their part and we must do ours. One of these amazing students, Bianca Smith, provides inspiration for us and shared how she’s coping with the COVID-19 crisis and what’s next for her. I’m honored to share a bit of her story below.
Growing up, I played tennis. I wasn’t very good, but I learned a lot about myself, especially about how external challenges impacted my performance. Because of my rank on the team, I was often matched to compete against lower-ranked players at tournaments. And frequently, when I played an opponent I should have easily beaten, I lost. I wasn’t motivated, nor did I have the confidence in myself to try to win.
My mom always had bold expectations for me, but I don’t know that I always understood them. She really believed in me, and what I could do with my life. I think that’s probably 50% of what drives me, and it’s a lot of what helped me deal with adversity in my life. My own bold
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.