Meet Ghost of Education that Could Be

Published 11:50 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Suddenly, we’re flying a winding path “over the river and through the woods” in a land not so far and strangely familiar. Before we know it, we find ourselves in a comfortable and welcoming high school. The building looks quite usual, yet clean and freshly painted. Respectful and considerate students, bustling past as we move down the hallways, are focused on maintaining a culture of success.

As we look closely, there appears to be a bank in the hallway. As we appear confused, our guide explains that this is a branch of the local credit union. Students here have chosen to learn in a setting that relates their standard courses to the careers and professions of business and finance. The credit union helps support the education of these students by participating on an advisory board as well as sponsoring a local branch that is run by student workers. It seems clear that the students are enjoying school, and as they greet us and offer answers to our questions, they confirm their fulfillment; and then we are flying again.

We stop without warning at another destination — similar, yet nothing outstanding as far as the facility; however, the students are equally as engaged, sitting in dimly lit rooms staring at computer screens, completely attentive of the activities on the screens. Our hostess seems to recognize our guide, the ‘Ghost of Education That Could Be’ as she begins to gather some students to explain their school to us. From a variety of backgrounds and cultures, their stories are so similar. While in middle school, they had little interest in continuing school. They saw no real reason — no hope of finding a place in this confusing and disconnected world. After having “the opportunity here,” they found their place. One won Congressional awards for developing safety apps for smartphones while another earned $25,000 for identifying a security breach in a government information system and offered an immediate solution. They have scholarships for furthering their education and are excited about their successful futures.

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Again, the teacher tells of community professionals, the voluntary advisory board members supporting this Information Technology Academy. They provide programmatic advice as well as mentoring, shadowing and internship opportunities. In exchange, they realize the value of a local school that is supplying a capable and competent workforce. It is indeed a win-win collaboration!

Soon we are at another school; students look almost exactly like the ones we had seen with the ‘Ghost of Education Present;’ however, the school has been well-maintained, and the students are playful, yet respectful.  We realize the program directors and principal teach part-time in the schools and lead part-time — active participants in the learning process. The students tell us comparable stories of their Biomedical Science school with similar opportunities for collaboration with community professionals, internships and futures certain to be filled with success!

As we are returned to our beds, we wonder what was so different in the schools we visited with the ‘Ghost of Education That Could Be?’ Suddenly, we are aware — an engaged and committed community of professionals taking active roles in building the workforce ready to succeed in the marketplace. Students connecting their learning to something that “mattered in the real world” with an overwhelming sense of value for every member of the school community – students, teachers, leaders, and community partners.

We awoke to a brisk clear morning. Although strangely like any other morning, this morning had a whole new feel. We were filled with hope and dreams of what could be! We saw it before our very eyes, and now nothing can make us lose hope again. We have seen the realities of what happens to education in places where everyone in the community or “village” comes together to “raise a child” — not just one child, but every child. Just like the cold-hearted miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, we can never un-see what we have experienced, and we will never sit back and let hopelessness prevail again!

Please take a little time during this ‘Season of Giving’ to consider what each of us may give back to the community — not only money, but also our time and our knowledge. We have what it takes to provide safe and healthy schools — physically, intellectually and emotionally — where students today become leaders of tomorrow.

We will be suspending our meetings for the next few weeks, but will resume the week of Jan. 8, with our usual schedule:

4Community Prayers for Natchez — 7 p.m. Mondays, Grand Hotel

4Community Meeting to Support Natchez — 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Grand Hotel

4Open Mic Night to Engage Natchez — 5 p.m. Thursdays, Natchez Brewery

And like our Facebook Group & Page for Updates on our efforts!
Dr. Marvin Jeter is an educational consultant and a member of Natchez United.