(Screenshot via YouTube)
This is part of "Leaders of Color" month of the Generocity Editorial Calendar. Find the series here.
Stacy Holland had an obsession with figuring out what’s wrong with Philly’s education system, and it began by realizing one of her own failures.
That failure was manifested in a brief reunion with a student the Lenfest Foundation executive director believed she had prepped for college success. She reminisced on the experience in her TEDxPhiladelphia talk last year.
He wasn’t the greatest student, but he had the potential to succeed. He didn’t. She quickly found out he was in the same situation she left him in, even holding down the same menial gig she had helped him land in high school.
“He was a young man that was living in such horrible conditions of poverty. He wasn’t poor, he was po — he couldn’t even afford the O and the R,” she said at TEDxPhiladelphia last year (an allusion to rapper Big L‘s “Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous“).
When Holland took a job with the School District of Philadelphia in 2013 (something she said she’d “never, ever do”), she began to see positive things about Philly’s school system, or “pockets of brilliance” — mentorship programs such as Steppingstone Scholars and community support organizations such as Friends of groups.
Holland proposed Philadelphians adopt “three big ideas” when talking about creating a best-in-class school system in Philadelphia.
- Speak into existence that we deserve a high quality public education system. “We have to demand it. It is no longer an option. If we don’t speak hope, aspiration and love into these schools … they will become what they are.”
- Schooling begins with adults. “Adults, you must change your behavior. It all starts with us. Children are nothing more than the victims of the circumstance that we the adults create. We say their schools are bad, so they’re bad. So you have to stop saying it.”
- Persevere. “These changes will take years. You cannot quit. We have to stop reforming and start re-engineering. We have to start rebuilding the different pieces of our system.”
Most importantly, Holland said, don’t be critical unless you’re willing to do something about it. See the possibility and potential in Philadelphia’s youth and ask yourself what you’re doing to help them get there.
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