One out of three fourth grade students scored “below basic” literacy level in 2009. Nearly half of these students come from low-income families. Overall, 67% of fourth graders are reading below their grade level. American students are lagging the rest of the world in math and science. (“Statistics About Education In America,” 2014) In Pennsylvania, nearly 17,000 children dropped out of school during the 2011-2012 school year. (“Dropout Data and Statistics,” 2014) These sobering statistics leave most Americans shaking their heads and pointing fingers. Blame parents, blame teachers, blame politicians, or worst of all, blame the kids. Blame does not solve problems. Blame does not turn the dismal statistics around. Blame does not help a single struggling child.
When I hear news reports, read the latest research studies, or talk to teachers and parents, I want to do something. I want to help reach these kids. Not to drag them kicking and screaming to their diplomas, but to create a love of reading, an insatiable desire for knowledge, and to feel the immense sense of pride that comes from facing challenges and finding success. Growing up, I possessed a natural academic ability. Good grades came easy to me in elementary school and I was admitted to the gifted program. However, family struggles and a one size fits all education system quickly left me bored, disillusioned, and indifferent about school. By the time I entered the middle school years, I didn’t believe my education mattered. Lacking family support and encouragement, and bored by my slow moving classes, I quickly began to tune out and stopped putting forth any effort. When my mother passed away early in my senior year of high school, I completely checked out and barely graduated. Not until my mid 20s did I realize the severe impact that this path and the choices I made have on my life. I became determined to change my future, even though I now had adult responsibilities and knew it would be a difficult road. Today, at 35 years old, I am finally realizing my dream of earning a college degree. I have loved every minute of my undergraduate courses, and I am determined to continue my education as far as possible.
More often than not, I see adolescents and teens with the same indifference about school, and struggling with their own personal challenges. What if someone had inspired just one or two or a dozen of these kids to get excited about learning and realize they too can be successful, before they reached middle school or high school and decided to give up? Every child deserves someone in their life to meet them where they are, without judgment, and inspire their own self-worth. Every child deserves someone who believes in them, encourages them, and helps find a path that will enable them to experience success. Sadly, in my own experience, I did not come across an educator who did this for me until I came to Cedar Crest College, as a student in the Applied Psychology program. Dr. Jane Tyler-Ward supported me, encouraged me, and made me believe that I have incredible potential beyond anything I ever imagined for myself.
For the past 15 years, I was dedicated to a career that supported the needs of high-level executives in the corporate world. As a C-level executive assistant, my life was devoted to profit driven organizations that I often didn’t believe in or disagreed with on a moral and ethical level. I chose not to pursue an education that would improve my prospects in the private sector, and instead seek to gain the skills needed to improve the future of others. Now that I have welcomed my first son into the world, my drive to reach out and prevent any child from falling through the cracks has only strengthened. I can only hope to one-day impact a student in the ways that Dr. Ward has done for me. I cannot think of a better way to share my passion for learning, or realize my desire to help others than by becoming an elementary school teacher. If accepted into the MEd Early Childhood Certification, PreK-4 program, I plan to tailor my education to help those most in need and pursue a career in urban schools that are culturally rich but low income.
Statistics About Education In America: Our Students Are Not Reading At Grade Level. (2014). Students First. Retrieved from: http://www.studentsfirst.org/pages/the-stats
Dropout Data and Statistics. (2014). Pennsylvania Department of Education. Retrieved from: http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/dropouts/7396