Education: A Community Investment
The African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” holds so much truth especially in regards to education. In the U.S., oftentimes the responsibility of education in K-12 public schools solely rests on the shoulders of teachers and school administrators which creates a very problematic education environment. This is due to the challenges of having to manage the various learning needs of students from educators who are understaffed, overworked, and under-paid. In order to address this problem, it is imperative that communities, composed of parents, local residents, and local businesses, start investing in their local youth’s education. For this reason, it’s time that we stop making education a “school responsibility” and see it for what it is, a community investment. And this community investment is especially needed in our underserved neighborhoods where low academic performance public schools are located.
Underserved neighborhoods are faced with many challenges on a regular basis. Along with having high crime, limited job opportunities, over-policing, and scarce healthy food options (i.e. food deserts), underserved neighborhoods are also often faced with the challenges of having schools with low academic performance. These challenges were already present prior to the current health pandemic of COVID-19. Now, along with fear and discomfort, the health pandemic has also brought with it a major disruption to these neighborhood public schools that were already struggling to provide a quality education for students. With the health pandemic causing the relocation of these schools to a predominantly virtual learning environment, one of the looming issues that parents and teachers have to address is how best to educate students particularly those who were already struggling while attending in-person schools, to not fall behind in a virtual learning environment. Although virtual/ distance learning has its convenience, and during the time of this pandemic is the safest option for students, faculty, and staff, distance learning can also be difficult. The difficulty lies in the fact that distance learning requires an immense level of dedication and self-motivation from the student in order for the individual to truly thrive in this learning environment.
As a community, we cannot allow our youth in underserved neighborhoods to fall even further behind in their education due to this health pandemic. So what needs to be done to get our youth, especially those who attend low academic performance schools, to care about their education, stay focused on learning, and empower them with access to knowledge in order to succeed in life? As a community of parents, individuals, teachers, administrators, and local businesses, we need to show our investment in the education of our youth by increasing our community involvement in advocating for their education. The following are some key ways for community members to be active in investing in the education of our local youth:
Lobby for more funding for our K-12 public schools from local elected officials (i.e. governor or mayor) as well as reaching out to local school boards about problematic school policies or curriculums. Schools are only as strong as the communities that support their work. Therefore it is imperative that parents, residents, and local businesses in these neighborhoods lift their collective voices to secure the financial resources to invest in the education of our local youth.
Parents, local residents, and local businesses have to be more involved in education-related activities. These activities includes
Getting Involved in Parent Teacher Association (PTA) - PTA is a great way for parents, teachers, school administrators, and even local residents to stay connected and build a fruitful educational experience within the neighborhood. When there is a disconnect in how parents and local residents interact with teachers and school administrators, cracks appear in the child’s education. In order for our youth to prosper, stronger relationships must be present amongst community members in these underserved neighborhoods.
Volunteering with After School Programs - Similar to teachers and school administrators, after school programs provided by nonprofit organizations need parents and local residents to be present in the educational development of our youth by volunteering. The work of after-school program coordinators is not easy especially when faced with students who just want to have fun and not necessarily learn. These after school programs provide students with the opportunity to learn while having fun making these programs essential to a child’s academic and personal development. In order for these programs to prosper and positively impact a child’s development, community involvement from parents, local residents, and local businesses is necessary.
Participating in Library Programs - Libraries are awesome because along with providing access to knowledge through book rentals and communal computer spaces, they also have additional resources in the form of enriching learning programs. With participation in these learning programs (primarily) being free, parents should always take advantage of this opportunity to build their child’s knowledge outside of school. And if there are programs that you think would benefit the local youth, then talk to your local library about having these programs available.
Now more than ever it is imperative that we do not allow our youth in underserved neighborhoods fall further behind in their education due to the challenges caused by the current health pandemic. By investing in the education of our youth we provide hope for the well-being of our underserved neighborhoods, a return of investment in the form of increased social capital, and opportunities to teach our youth to never limit their mind, regardless of their economic status.