WASHINGTON, October 31, 2012 – With students back in school across the country, I cannot help but reflect on the importance of a quality education and the tremendous difference it can make in a child’s life.
When a talented and motivated student is matched with a school that has a challenging academic environment, magic happens right before our eyes.
As Executive Director of Black Student Fund (BSF), that magic is almost indescribable. From my first day as Executive Director, I have been guided by our mission of “Bringing People Together” and when I think of those words a bridge comes to mind.
Just as a bridge connects people and communities, a bridge can connect two small towns. I would like to think that we build bridges for children in the National Capital Area allowing them to attend an independent school that is the “best fit” for both the student and their family.
The numbers are telling. Disproportionate racial and socio-economic enrollment still exists in independent schools in the United States. A 2009-2010 US Department of Education Private School Universe Survey illustrated that White-non Hispanic students made up approximately 73% enrollment in private schools compared to the 10% enrollment of Black non-Hispanic students.
Despite the demographic composition of most independent schools, research conducted by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University suggests that racial diversity in the classroom “improves student experiences; it enhances learning and increases positive social interaction among members of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.”
Our BSF slogan “Preparing Children for Life” can only be achieved by creating diverse educational environments in which students, educators, and administrators from racial, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds benefit from regular interaction. A quote by Dr. Haim Ginott offers a constant reminder: “Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.”
I envision a world where access to a quality education is a given and not an insurmountable task because of a family’s lack of financial resources and where every child has an opportunity to receive a quality education in an academically challenging school environment. The result is increased self-confidence – an “I can do anything” attitude that lasts a lifetime.
I also believe in school choice — private, charter, public — all the school options that are available. Keep in mind, every school has its strengths and every student has his or her strengths, but the two do not always overlap. Finding the right school for your child is like searching for his or her “school soul mate”.
My dream is that BSF influences the lives of all children, regardless of color or gender as we celebrate our differences and discover all that we have in common. After all, when we build strong communities we build a stronger country.
Black Student Fund member schools understand the importance of building communities and of celebrating differences and similarities not only in word and deed but in the curriculum as well. BSF Member Schools hire open-minded teachers who believe in that mission.
Questions such as “How did you get your hair to look like that?” or “Why does your family celebrate Kwanzaa?” should be open doors to learning about one another and creating understanding and tolerance.
Let’s challenge one another and hold everyone accountable for our children’s future. Let’s commit to our children, our schools and our community. Boundless possibilities abide in each child. Its up to us — parents, schools, and communities — to bring that to the forefront.
Jeanie Collins Carr is the Executive Director of Black Student Fund. Founded in 1964, Black Student Fund provides support to African American children pre-kindergarten through grade 12 from low to moderate-income households to attend independent schools in the Washington DC area.
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