This article was written by guest contributor Blake Jones.
GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federally funded program aiming to positively impact underserved middle school and high school students. Activities range from tutoring and mentoring to the facilitation of lessons and conversations about financial literacy and college readiness. I’m currently working as a GEAR UP Coach at Ben Franklin High School. This experience has honestly been life changing in some of the most unpredictable ways. I did not have any expectations of walking into the school like someone’s savior, just as a student trying to help others. There’s a certain level of authenticity within the students that one can never fail to appreciate, especially if you communicate that same level of genuineness.
We often talk about a student’s love of learning as being crucial for their success in school. But what about their love of school itself? In recent years, educators have begun thinking more and more about the impact that a school’s feeling can have on how well children perform, something experts call “school climate.” Broadly defined, school climate encompasses “the feelings and attitudes elicited by a school’s environment”. These emotions create a subjective viewpoint for students, parents, and faculty members towards the school that shapes how much they feel tied to the institution.
Not many people have heard of Shabana Basij-Rasikh, but perhaps more people ought to. This young woman is a powerful advocate for the education of young girls. She has been very successful with bringing education to girls in Afghanistan – including the founding of a non-profit school in Kabul while she herself was still in college.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and lived there while the Taliban were in power. Her early years of school consisted of attending secret school and, later during her formal schooling, having to sit outside in tents for class because her school did not have adequate resources to accommodate all of its students.
Penn prides itself in selecting a diverse student body. That being said, I never expected to meet someone at Penn who had been a crack cocaine dealer and had come from one of the most rough areas of West Philly. And I never expected that person to be so accomplished and ambitious.
I was first introduced to Glen’s story when I serendipitously decided to attend a random documentary screening last year.
I left amazed by the different journeys students take to arrive at Penn and stunned by the reality so different from our own that’s ever present only a few streets further west into Philadelphia.
The film “Glen’s Village” was commissioned by 5th Borough Films and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, a non-profit newspaper that reports on the city’s education system. It was directed and co-produced by Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist and filmmaker Dorian Geiger and Paul Jablow, a veteran Philadelphia education reporter. The film has been to more than 15 film festivals across the U.S and has won 5 awards. Glen’s village is also currently nominated for a Education Writers Award.
The only thing more impressive than the accolades the film has accrued is Glen’s story itself.
In 2012, Razia Jan was named a CNN Top 10 Hero. While she won the award four years ago, the issue she deals with remains equally relevant today and cannot be forgotten: the importance of educating young girls in Afghanistan.
Over the last decade, Razia has continued to empower young girls in Afghanistan to receive an education. She knows that these girls face many obstacles – the same obstacles faced, and overcome, by women such as Malala Yousafzi in Pakistan. Afghan girls trying to receive an education have faced threats against their lives: they have been poisoned, they have been attacked by acid, and their schools have been burned and bombed to the ground. Despite all this, however, Razia Jan knows the value of educating girls, and so that is what she does.
There is a large population of untapped labor; people who lack the resources to enter the workforce but are willing and able to work. Year Up is a non-profit that gives highly motivated, low-income students the opportunity to break into the professional world through skill development workshops, college credits, and corporate internships.
I spoke with Diana Capmbell – the executive director of Year Up Philadelphia – to learn more about this wonderful organization.
Q: How was Year Up created?
A: Year Up was started 14 years ago by Gerald Chertavian. He was inspired by his mentee in Big Brothers/Big Sisters but was also saddened that he had no access to any viable mainstream opportunities. He started Year Up in 2000 in Boston. For about 10 years, Year Up had its own brick and mortar operations. It would hire its own instructors, and it would give students six months of education and professional skills that they would need for the workplace and then send them on internships for six months – hence the name, Year Up.
On a warm July day in southwest Denver, eight 12-year-olds line up outside of Room 123 at Henry World Middle School with smiles on their faces. It’s an unusual sight to see. While most kids their age are spending this time playing soccer or video games, these kids are preparing to enter their first period math class.
Their teacher comes into the hall to greet them. He’s a bit lanky, wears a plaid button-up shirt with a small notebook in the front pocket, and barely looks old enough to be considered an adult.
“Good morning, mathematicians!” he says in a cheery tone.
“Good morning, Mr. Jordan,” they respond in unison. And the fun begins.
From the IMPACT Archives December 2014
By Sam Friedlander
They’re calling them the Lost Generation.
Back home, my generation is the iGeneration, the Selfie Generation, the Hashtag Generation. Cute, clever titles gently mock our self-obsession and reliance on technology.
In Syria, they’re the Lost Generation. It’s not cute, it’s not clever, but it might be true, and that’s heartbreaking. An entire Syrian generation isn’t being educated, and the consequences could be dire for Syria’s future.