America is 25th out of 30 developed nations in math scores, only 8 percent of students from low-income communities will graduate from college by the time they are 24 and high school dropouts are eight times more likely to go to prison. We hear statistics like these every single day, but public education in America is still desperately segregated by ZIP code.
I was privileged to go to a school where 98 percent of my class would graduate from a four-year institution of higher education. Ten minutes south of my school district and one ZIP code apart lies another district in the heart of the city where students are overwhelmingly pipelined from third grade to minimum wage labor or prison. America, the land of opportunity and freedom, is failing its children.
Education is empowerment. Despite broken homes, crumbling facilities and growing up in poverty, a great education enables the young minds of our country to make something of themselves, to learn and earn a life better than what they have. But the chance to fulfill potential or pull themselves up with their boot straps does not exist for students in low-income communities who are burdened with a system at birth designed to continue a cycle of poverty and crime. Our system is broken, but the problem is fixable.
We aren’t without hope. More than any single attribute, great teachers account for success. Studies and statistics show that an excellent, energized and engaged teacher will overcome every obstacle from gang violence to poverty from lack of supplies to crumbling buildings when it comes to his or her student’s education. Students with high-performing teachers will progress three times as fast as those with low-performing teachers, according to Oprah and “Waiting for Superman.” The children of this nation deserve the opportunity to be the best they can be, and Missouri graduates can be the change they need.
The last deadline to apply for Teach for America is this Friday, Feb. 15. Our nation’s future lies on the shoulders of today’s students; let’s make sure they’re ready for the challenge. Be the change, apply today.
-Steven Dickherber firstname.lastname@example.org
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