On January 21st, Harlem Children’s Zone founder and Waiting for Superman contributor Geoffrey Canada came to Middletown to speak at Wesleyan University’s Social Justice Leadership Conference. A Bronx native and long-time educator, Canada’s defense of the importance of quality education in the inner city comes from personal experience. Many involved at Green Street were in attendance, and one Wesleyan student was inspired to write about Canada’s words and how they apply to the work she does in Green Street’s After School Arts & Science Program.
Geoffrey Canada’s lecture was certainly just as relevant and inspiring as it was a call to action. He asserted that at the moment, America is not living up to its potential in providing equal, first-rate education to every one of its children. Progress is made by going the extra mile, beyond the expected and what is simply required, even if that means working for the cause around the clock and in spite of hardships, frustrations, and setbacks. Canada stressed the importance of all citizens taking accountability for the quality of education in America. We are all responsible for how children learn and are taught, just as we are responsible for the kind of attention they receive. Politicians and reformers with power and influence are definitely making progress as witnessed in a public arena, but Canada said that not everyone can be a “general” in the education reform struggle. “Soldiers”, those who work on the front lines directly with students, out of the spotlight, are also necessary.
Education reform begins with the belief in every child’s academic potential, right to good education, and opportunity for growth. That belief fuels the work we do at Green Street, and our faith in the ability of each child manifests itself in our encouragement and interactions with them. By treating every student as an individual and catering to their interests and concerns, our students understand that they matter and that they are capable of achievement. The people of Green Street are very much the kind of “soldiers” about which Canada spoke. Little by little, differences are made in the lives of the children as they spend a few hours after school at Green Street each day. The extra academic enrichment and care they receive are small steps to making a big difference in not only their extra-curricular learning, but also in their entire academic, social, and developmental lives.
Submitted by Samantha Maldonado, ’13, After School support staff