By Dashaun Robinson
For many young people at risk in today’s world, an internal battle exists pitting monetary gains against self enlightenment. Which is stronger: education or money?
Now if you’re saying to yourself, “well that’s an easy one,” then you are probably reading this from your comfy desk, at your stable job. But for our less fortunate youth, this is one of the many questions in life that shocks and rattles the mind–long before they are ready or able to make a decision of such magnitude. Some kids just want the newest and shiniest things while others are desperate to fit in with their peers. Still others face destitution on their door step every afternoon. All of them are pulled away from the classroom.
At the ripe old age of 23, I’ve been able to piece together my education but the same cannot be said about the me from a couple of years ago or the me of 10 years ago. One would expect at least some indifference towards schooling in many students but without the support outside the classroom, that indifference becomes an aversion. Many students who either leave school or are forced out via poor performance and the failing of adults around them are victims of instability at home.
I reflect back on the numerous days throughout high school where the most positive things about going home that afternoon would be having a place to sleep and finishing the school day. There was no meal on the table, no parent waiting with a smile to ask about my day–just a couple steps, leading to a door, which led to a house…but not a home.
We know that our parent/parents love us. We know they want the best for us and the household. But we also know we are uncomfortable and unstable. We are without parents when we need them. A single mother/father must work day in and day out, from sunrise to sunset in order to maintain a house. Sometimes two incomes just aren’t enough. And some parents choose not to work. Or can’t work. Millions of students have no home. It is conditions like these that drive our students away from the classrooms and into the streets–where they are forced to be criminals behind bars or taking your order through a drive-thru window. They’re trapped either way.
The communities that surround these students must take charge. They must identify the students without proper structure and support at home and provide that for them when needed. It is important that teachers and other school staff involve themselves in these students lives. Sometimes it only takes a tiny bit of support. Maybe some recognition, a pat on the back. A little encouragement to a student who doesn’t receive much can mean the world. It can be a game changer.
On the flip side there are students, like myself, who require much more than that. We need constant reminders and constant encouragement that school is the place for them and is the way out of the everyday struggles of their household. All in all, if anything is to be taken from my words today it is that we must push our students tirelessly towards education because there are so many outside forces pulling them just as hard away from it.