I posted the following response to a question posed by a fellow University of Pennsylvania Urban Studies Alumnus on Linked In and felt compelled to share it here too. The question was: “What is the biggest issue affecting our cities today? And what can we as Urban Studies Alums do about it?” My response: Education. And so today, you get a glimpse into my past and what I believe the future of education in our urban centers must look like to create and sustain positive change.
“In response to Kevin (who responded with a post about the socio-economic divide): Fresh out of college I worked for a non-profit that, among other things, sponsored the Ambassadors Program which brought high school students from inner-city Philadelphia together with students from suburban Philadelphia to work together on social impact projects. The Ambassador Program commenced with a weekend retreat and the students met on a monthly basis to work towards their goal, often communicating more frequently in order to achieve their objectives. The impact projects were impressive, but I think the greatest impact of the Ambassadors Program was that it created a mutual understanding between students from very different socio-economic backgrounds. The students found they had much in common despite the obvious differences. I commend you for engaging in coaching with a non-profit and providing young girls with a positive experience and opportunity to find common ground with others who are different from them.
As for the original question, I firmly believe that education continues to be a thorn in the side of urban centers. There have been some tremendous innovations in recent years, with charters flourishing and out-of-school-time programs available in abundance. While I am excited by some of the innovations, urban schools are still faced with students who enter school a major deficit when compared to students in wealthier suburban districts. The missing piece is Mandatory Preschool starting at age 3 and available to every single child in an under-performing school district.
I am now a mother to a 3 1/2 year old and 1 1/2 year old. While I have always believed a solid foundation was important for success in school, it is now abundantly clear to me that preschool should be a part of mandated schooling. I am lucky enough to be home with my girls and spend a good deal of time reading to them and encouraging learning through our daily adventures. But, not every parent has the time, knowledge or ability to do this for their children, particularly in urban centers where parents can be overworked and undereducated.
For starters, we can all support President Obama’s Preschool For All initiative. But, I also think we need to support and promote nonprofits who are working to provide access to high quality preschool education in urban centers. We must provide young children with a solid foundation and free up urban schools to teach on-level, rather than try to play catch-up with children who are woefully under-prepared for school. This is a path to leveling the playing field and it is a path that should be a priority over the next decade in the United States.
- America’s 4-Year-Olds Need More High-Quality Preschools – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- How Would Preschool For All Work? Is It All About Play or ABCs?
- Fact Sheet: President Obama’s Plan for Early Education for All Americans