Imagine being provided everything in high school to achieve maximum academic success except a stable home. In theory this can be quite a difficult task to achieve. When you think of academic success, one of the first resources to be considered is indeed the household--parents, the environment, hygienic nourishment and emotional support. The unfortunate reality is that for many students, primarily homeless and foster youth, domestic stability is non-existent. Sadly, this has an adverse effect on their performance in schools. Even more devastating is the number of black American children who are more heavily impacted in this scenario. I know, because I, too, was one.
UNCF's Social Entrepreneurship program was developed with the intention of molding collegiate
students to be teachers, leaders, and entrepreneurs who will get angry enough to passionately,
creatively, and effectively implement solutions to social ills that effect disadvantaged communities. This summer, I will tackle education reformation with Teach For America in Washington, D.C.
According to a fact sheet developed by HEYSF.org, an organization that advocates for foster youth, over 500,000 youth nationally are in some form of foster care every day. A fifth of the nation's foster youth population lives in California. 83% are detained by the third grade and sadly 75% of the foster youth population K-12 ages are considered to be behind grade level.
I emancipated out of the foster care system shortly after I graduated high school, a feat only 46% of foster youth get to experience. I am a part of the meager 10% of foster youth that continued to college and I will soon graduate to the 1% that will actually obtain a baccalaureate degree. I graduated as the senior class president at my high school and I was well-known and well respected among my peers and higher ups. Even for somebody like me, I yet and still did not graduate the top of my class due to various domestic circumstances that I had no control over.
I attended two high schools, and moved five times in the four years that I was in school. In my most desperate moments, I had lost all passion and desire to go to school and I had lost the only control that ever kept me motivated--control of my grades. Unlike many of my peers however, I was lucky enough to have teachers who provided emotional support when I needed it and who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. Those teachers are the reason that I am a part of the 1% of formerly fostered college graduates.
I know better than anybody the importance of having quality teachers. I also well know how much work it takes for a teacher to care enough to help raise a child and to see that child succeed academically despite domestic circumstances.
The knowledge I gained from participating in the UNCF Social Entrepreneurship leadership development training inspired me to want to continue to find new ways to close the education gap between minority students and their counterparts by combating social issues such as homelessness and foster care. It gave me the tools to consider entrepreneurship as a means of advocacy and, more importantly, it reignited the passion that I have to save my community from education deprivation. We win when we all win. I am excited to walk with UNCF and Teach For America as we revolutionize the learning experience one classroom at a time.