In the education field, the blame game is played by both insiders and outsiders. "Our kids are failing because the teachers are not teaching them." "Our kids are failing because their parents don’t care.” We often forget that there are multiple stakeholders in a young person’s development. Instead of playing this blame game between parents and schools, we need to look at the broader picture and hold the entire community accountable. At the National Mentoring Summit, Dr. Patricia Harbour shared that the difference between reforming schools and transforming education is the difference between changing grade level standards and empowering youth. After all, "youth development generates community development," she said.
Most of us have an idea of the issues that are plaguing our youth in the inner-city - the achievement gap, the dropout crisis, poverty, gangs, lack of health education - but these aren't school issues, they’re not youth issues, they're community issues. The success of our youth and the future of our communities are determined by how we support them.
At Practice Makes Perfect, we provide a unique, near-peer mentorship model where academically struggling youth are matched with high achieving mentors from the same neighborhood. This model allows the mentee to see that academic success is possible because others with like experiences have done it.
But that's not enough. We need visibility from everyone in the community. We need business professionals, bankers, doctors, librarians, and even gardeners to be visible at our schools. These role models can interact with our students through career simulations that show the professional skills needed to succeed. We need companies to host internships and career readiness workshops. We need museums, theaters and colleges to host free programming. Even the local pizza shop can help by offering a free slice or even a party when a student comes in with an A.
If we want our communities to prosper and our youth to succeed, we need everyone to lend a helping hand to support their development.