What stands out to you when you turn on the morning news? Is it the 947 Chicago shooting victims so far this year that the Tribune references? Is it the budget hole in the Chicago Public School system’s funding that allows certain students to slip between the cracks? Or is it the way the news anchors announce these numbers like they’re nothing, and the way we barely notice how they slap back on a smile to give us the weather forecast?
Every time I turn on the morning news, there is one thing that stands out to me: how incredibly lucky we are. I know you’ve heard it a hundred times, but it’s true. Here at South, we are not struck with extreme poverty, gang violence or poor funding.
One thing that strikes me the most is how fortunate we are to go to a school that can offer us abundant resources, safety and opportunities. But, what makes us more deserving of a school like this? Why do some kids have to attend schools that can barely offer them safety, let alone an education as thorough as ours?
The truth is that we aren’t more deserving. And there is no rhyme or reason behind why some people are born into poverty-ridden areas while others are born into comfort.
It has become increasingly clear to me over the years that it is our responsibility to help students who need it. All students deserve an opportunity to receive an education that allows them to succeed.
If impoverished kids don’t have access to a great education, how will they escape the cycle of poverty? And if no one else is helping these kids, isn’t it our responsibility to look out for one another? We need to step up and help them, because in reality they’re just like us.
More importantly, we’re just like them. There is an underlying cultural narrative that enforces the idea that they are somehow different, less capable. Less motivated, others may think. But in reality, the only thing that makes them “different” is opportunity.
The “American Dream” claims to offer success to anyone, rich or poor, no matter their race or gender. This “American Dream” can’t always be a reality. Some people have the odds stacked against them, and it is seemingly impossible to go from rags to riches like we expect them to.
So what can we do to help? One of my answers is generic, but holds true: volunteering. We can volunteer our time to a tutoring/mentoring program or donate our money to worthy causes like the Chicago Foundation for Education or the Big Shoulders fund.
My other answer is more probable, and perhaps more motivating. One way to help is to take advantage of your own education. I was once told that we shouldn’t receive an education, we should claim it. That piece of advice has pushed me further than I had imagined.
So now is the time to claim your education. Claim your education so you can grow up and help others claim theirs. We’re just kids, but kids have the power to grow into people that change the world. By claiming our education, we can become those people.
There is no reason why we should have access to the “American Dream” and other kids, just because of their neighborhood or lack of wealth, should not. It is time to even the playing field. And fellow students should be standing alongside one another as an integral part of the process.