College or Bust!July 14, 2012 No Comments
The next day is the best day if you’re able to learn from it. — Poet/Author Mr.Kai Christopher
It worked when it was launched in 1965, and it works today. Upward Bound.. A summer intensive program to improve the social and academic skills of high school students. I am talking about young men and women who have promise and potential, but not the resources of their more privileged peers who have parents with higher incomes. Simply put: It prepares them for college.
I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the program’s 2012 summer component awards program. It was staged on the campus of St. Augustine’s college. Proud parents were there as well as officers and staff from the college.
50 achievers were recognized for their hard work over a five week session.
Among the highlights: a check presentation to keep North Carolina’s Upward Bound project rolling. U.S Congressman Brad Miller made a guest appearance with a big impact! He handed over the goods: a check for $595 thousand dollars!!
Also a young poet shared his gift with words of inspiration. He said a lot of good stuff. What stuck with me: Kai Christopher telling the students they should have no regrets. Kai called it a beast with sharp teeth. He said experience equals wisdom– and that hope equals strength.
Before the students were dismissed to enjoy the rest of the summer, I took a picture of them for my own gratification. I was that proud!
I talked to them about how special and fortunate they are and why they must use the upward bound muscles they have developed, and keep growing and get better.
Here is a transcript of my speech:
WHEN MARY MCLOUD BETHUNE SAID
“Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.”….
PEOPLE NEVER THOUGHT SHE WOULD ACTUALLY OPEN THE DOORS OF OPPORTUNITY AND EQUALITY TO SO MANY YOUNG MEMBERS OF THE BLACK RACE. THROUGH EDUCATION…DETERMINATION AND COURAGE.
YET TODAY WE KNOW SHE WAS RIGHT. SHE PROVED THAT GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO PROVE THEIR POTENTIAL, PEOPLE OF COLOR CAN MAKE THE IMPOSSIBLE, POSSIBLE.
THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS MORNING..
YOUR POWERFUL POTENTIAL.
THESE THINGS CAME TO MY MIND AS I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU…THIS DAY.. AND THE UPWARD BOUND EXPERIENCE:
OPPORTUNITIES, PURPOSE, AND THE POWER OF YOU.
I’LL BET MANY THINGS SURPRISED YOU AS YOU PUSHED YOUR WAY THROUGH THIS COURSE. NOW YOU’RE ON THE OTHER SIDE.
CONGRATULATIONS! (you will be hearing that a lot today!)
I CAN LOOK OUT AT YOU AND KNOW…YOU ARE NOT THE SAME YOUNG MEN AND YOUNG WOMEN YOU WERE WHEN YOU ARRIVED!
AS I LOOK OUT THIS MORNING… AT YOU, I AM REMINDED ABOUT A HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION I ATTENDED IN CHICAGO LAST MONTH. MY DAUGHTER IS AN EDUCATOR AT A COLLEGE PREP CHARTER SCHOOL… THAT IS LOCATED ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO.
IT’S A COMMUNITY THAT HAS A LARGE BLACK AND HISPANIC POPULATION AND NOTORIOUS FOR BEING DANGEROUS.
IT IS AN AREA WHERE YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN (WHO LOOK LIKE US) ARE DOGGED BY A DISTURBING PICTURE OF HOW THEIR LIVES WILL BE… WHERE THEY FACE A FUTURE OF PRISON, TEENAGE PREGNANCY… EVEN MURDER. THEY HAVE TEACHERS WHO LOOK AT THEIR BROWN FACES, AND SEE THEM AS A POTENTIAL STATISTIC.
YOU KNOW WHAT THAT BREEDS? BITTERNESS. PESSIMISM… DETATCHMENT.
SO YOU SEE THE STUDENTS WHO ATTEND SCHOOL ON THE SOUTH SIDE, ARE ALREADY LABELLED BEFORE THEY CAN EVEN BEGIN TO PROVE THEIR POTENTIAL.
LABELLED AND TRACKED TO TAKE CERTAIN COURSES… WHERE EXPECTATIONS FOR THEM TO EXCEL ARE LOW, IF THEY EXIST AT ALL. “UNDERACHIVERS”, THEY CALL THEM.
NOT AT THIS PARTICULAR SCHOOL, WHERE MY DAUGHTER TEACHES ALGEBRA AND CALCULUS. I’LL NEVER FORGET THIS YEAR’S GRADUATION DAY…OR THE TEARS OF PRIDE THAT POURED FROM MY DAUGHTER’S EYES.
WHEN IT COMES TO MEASURING THE WORTH OF A STUDENT, (AT HER SCHOOL ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO..) THEY DON’T ASK, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? RATHER, THEY SEEK TO FIND OUT WHAT IS RIGHT WITH YOU! AND THEN WORK FROM THERE.
THIS SCHOOL PRACTICES THE PRINCIPLES OF THE UPWARD BOUND PROGRAM EVERY DAY. IT’S YEAR ROUND. AND BECAUSE COMER HIGH SCHOOL IS A COLLEGE PREP CHARTER SCHOOL, THE GRADUATION WAS INTENTIONALLY STAGED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO. – NOT IN THE SCHOOL AUDITORIUM OR A CONVENTION CENTER.
HERE’S THE WONDERFUL NEWS… EVERY STUDENT AT THAT SCHOOL IS BLACK OR LATINO. AND 100 PERCENT OF THEM ARE GOING TO A 4-YEAR COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY IN THE FALL. THEIR TEACHERS AND COUNSELORS HELPED THE FAMILIES WORK OUT A MAJOR PIECE OF PURSUING HIGHER GRADUATION—FINANCIAL AID…
WHAT THEY GOT IS WHAT YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN: A FAIR CHANCE.
THAT IS THE FUTURE EVERYONE GATHERED HERE THIS MORNING AT ST.AUGUSTINE’S COLLEGE WANTS FOR YOU. AND YOU CAN HAVE THAT, IF YOU WANT IT.
IT IS SO FITTING THAT THE UPWARD BOUND PROGRAM AND AWARDS CEREMONY IS BEING HELD AT THIS ESTEEMED INSTITUTION OF HIGHER LEARNING.
YOU AND EVERYONE HERE , IS STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GREATNESS… ON THE STRONG SHOULDERS OF MEN AND WOMEN WHO LONG AGO WALKED THESE GROUNDS—STRUGGLED– AND WENT ON TO MAKE SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS COMMUNITY AND THE WORLD!
“GREATS” WHO INCLUDE:
ANNA J. COOPER… BORN INTO SLAVERY IN RALEIGH. SHE DEVELOPED A LOVE FOR LEARNING EARLY.. AND STARTED DOWN THAT PATH WITH ALL DELIBERATE SPEED:
COOPER viewed learning as a means of true liberation. She is best known for her educational leadership, her challenges to the racist notion that African Americans were naturally inferior, and her groundbreaking collection of essays and speeches, A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892).
During her years at St. Augustine’s, she distinguished herself as a bright and ambitious student, who showed equal dexterity with both liberal arts and analytical disciplines like math and science. At St. Augustine’s, Cooper fought for her right to take courses, such as Greek, which were reserved for men by demonstrating her scholastic ability.
THERE ARE OTHERS WHO WALKED THESE GROUNDS AND HAVE MADE HISTORY:
CONSIDER RALPH CAMPBELL JUNIOR—THE FORMER STATE AUDITOR AND THE FIRST BLACK ELECTED TO THAT POSITION IN NORTH CAROLINA.
AND GEORGE PUP WILLIAMS: GOLD MEDAL WINNING TRACK AND FIELD COACH, AND ATHLETIC DIRECTOR AT ST. AUGUSTINE’S.
THOSE FOLKS DIDN’T GET TO SUCCESS ALL BY THEMSELVES. NO WAY!
JUST LIKE YOU HAVE HAD TUTORS/MENTORS/RELENTLESS TEACHERS/FAMILY MEMBERS CHEERING YOU ON WITH GREAT GUSTO… TO GET TO THIS DAY… THEY DID TOO.
RALPH CAMPBELL, PUP WILLIAMS, AND ANNA J.
WERE THEY ALL MODEL STUDENTS? WHO NEVER MESSED UP, NEVER HAD TROUBLE STAYING ON TASK.. NEVER NEEDED SOMEONE TO CORRECT THEIR CONDUCT… AS THEY TRIUMPHED?
I CAN ADD AUTHORS BESSIE AND SADIE DELANY AND GOSPEL GREAT LUTHER BARNES TO THAT LIST OF GREATS.
WERE THEY MODEL STUDENTS AT ST. AUGUSTINE’S COLLEGE?
NO. NOT ALL OF THEM… NOT ALL THE TIME.
BUT HERE’S THE THING:
THE PEOPLE WHO PUSH YOU, CHALLENGE YOU, CORRECT YOU, CHEER YOU—
THEY CAN ONLY PUSH, CHALLENGE, CORRECT, AND CHEER FOR YOU—SO FAR.
YOU KNOW WHO GETS THE REST OF THE CREDIT FOR YOU WORKING UP TO YOUR POTENTIAL?
NOT YOUR MOMMA, NOT YOUR DADDY, NOT YOUR MEE-MAH.. NOT UPWARD BOUND.
I’M TALKING ABOUT YOU.
YOU NEED TO GIVE YOURSELVES A HIGH FIVE AND A PAT ON THE BACK.. OR BRUSH YOUR SHOULDERS… WHATEVER YA’LL DO THESE DAYS.
WHATEVER YOU DO THESE DAYS TO SYMBOLIZED. YEAH, IT GOT THIS!
LIFE IS ABOUT CHOICES… IN YOUR EDUCATION…
YOU COULD CHOOSE TO SKIP SCHOOL.
YOU COULD CHOOSE TO NOT PARTICIPATE WHEN YOU DO GO TO CLASS
YOU COULD CHOOSE NOT TO RAISE YOUR HAND, WHEN A TEACHER ASKS, WHO DOESN’T UNDERSTAND… DO I NEED TO BREAK THIS DOWN SOME MORE?
YOU COULD CHOOSE TO TALK BACK TO THE TEACHER WHEN HE OR SHE CORRECTS YOU FOR NOT FOLLOWING CLASS RULES.
YOU COULD CHOOSE TO SIT IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM AND .. AND …JUST SIT—IN…THE… BACK.. OF.. THE.. ROOM.
AND I WOULD GUESS THAT THERE WERE TIMES WHEN YOU DID SOME OF THOSE THINGS:
YOU DIDN’T SHOW UP…
WHEN YOU DID SHOW UP, YOU SHOWED OUT
WHEN YOU WERE ASKED TO CONTRIBUTE TO A CLASS DISCUSSION. YOU DIDN’T OPEN YOUR MOUTH.
MAYBE YOU EVEN SLEPT IN CLASS!
WHAT LIGHTS ME UP THIS MORNING, AND EXCITES ME ABOUT SEEING YOU AND SUPPORTING YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS — IS THAT YOU DON’T DO THOSE THINGS ANYMORE.
YOU’VE STOPPED MAKING BAD CHOICES.
YOU’RE SEEING A WONDERFUL PAYOFF…
YOU ARE GROWING, GETTING BETTER, AND BEGINNING TO SEE WHERE YOU CAN BE IF YOU PUT ALL THE THINGS YOU’VE LEARNED AT UPWARD BOUND INTO ACTION. THIS STUFF STICKS WITH YOU. IF YOU KEEP APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES.
YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO CRYSTALIZE SOME OF YOUR GOALS IN LIFE. (THE FULL INTENTION TO COLLEGE???)
YOU KNOW THE VALUE OF EXTRA COURSES THAT MAY BE OFFERED AT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL.
YOU HAVE LEARNED HOW TO DO MANY THINGS YOU DID NOT HAVE THE COURAGE TO DO BEFORE.
YOU KNOW THAT TUTORING WORKS!
HOW ABOUT THIS… YOU’VE LEARNED HOW TO HAVE FUN EVEN WHEN YOU’RE DOING THINGS THAT SHOULD NOT BE FUN!!!
I’m going to say it again. “Congratulations”
I WANT TO CLOSE WITH ONE OF MY FAVORITE POEMS THAT SPEAKS TO CHOICES. I HOPE THIS MORNING IT SPEAKS TO YOU.
The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN.
YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN A GIFT.
TAKE IT… RUN WITH IT..
AND REMEMBER THOSE WHO WALKED THESE GROUNDS BEFORE YOU.
AND MAKE US PROUD!
THANK FOR LISTENING, AND AGAIN