10/23/2012 04:38 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2012

Detroit Education: Our Success Is Defined by Opportunity

When we talk about public education, it's easy to get caught up in test scores, failing schools, classroom sizes, decaying buildings and seemingly intractable issues. While it's important we evaluate how we are teaching our children, we must never lose track of the intended result. Education is the deciding factor in giving children an opportunity to eventually live the lives they want to lead. Education and opportunity are virtually synonymous with one another, inseparable when determining a future.

After more than 30 years in higher education and 15 years in Detroit, when I could be (and was) retired, I instead decided to accept the role of president for the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. I believe it is the best way for me to provide today's students with what I was provided: opportunity. A quality education should motivate students for lifelong learning that builds self-esteem and self-confidence to work hard and succeed. All of Detroit's students should have the same chance to achieve their dreams and goals, in public school, even if like me, they don't come from families who can afford a private education.

The Detroit Public Schools Foundation positively impacts thousands of students' lives each school year. The mission of the DPS Foundation is to raise and steward funds to support successful programs and activities, inside and outside the classroom, for the benefit of public school students in Detroit. My predecessor, Chacona Johnson, led the DPS Foundation to raise more than $3.8 million in pledges and donations in three years, and more than $1.8 million has already been awarded in program grants. Chacona left a successful legacy at the foundation that I am pleased to advance.

It is often said that it takes an entire community to make change happen. Over the years, I have volunteered and served on boards of a variety of organizations throughout Detroit, and I have directly experienced the power of a community united. As head of the DPS Foundation, my focus will be on bringing the community together under one common goal: providing the best possible education for our students. Our success will be defined by the success of the programs we support together.

So to our community, I say now is your chance. For my part, I will actively spread the word about the opportunities this foundation in particular has for members of our community to make a difference. Will you support our students? Will you be accountable for their education? Will you be our partner?

It is all too easy to pass the responsibility onto others, but when it comes to a quality education, it takes all of us to contribute our time, talent or treasure. We cannot sit back and simply rely on the city or the state or the federal government to carry the responsibility of our future for us.

We must remember to instill the values in our communities about the importance of education for the opportunity for success. As neighbors and friends and family, we are the ones who demonstrate to the next generation the unlimited possibilities that come with dedication to hard work. Detroit has always been a place of opportunity. Detroit has been about determination and grit for generations. Now, we owe that same resolve to our students.