Shawn’s Voice: Will Her Freshman Disappointments turn into Her Sophomore Hopes?
“So, how did you do in school Tete; did you pass?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, what did you have on your final report card?”
“A’s and B’s.”
“I’m sure you passed with those grades Tete, are you ready for the 4th grade?”
“What about you two Gabriel and Taylor?”
“Yes we passed, and we’re ready for summer!”
“And you Shawn?”
“I passed, and I did ok in school. I had a 3.2 GPA. I would have done better if my teachers were there more often.”
Those words, that statement, and the tone of that 14-year-old young girl voice still resonate with me today as if I just had the conversation minutes ago. This was a family discussion that we had while driving to our family vacation this year. A time that should be joyful in a teenager’s life especially during summer, yet so many of our young people are contemplating what happens next in their life as it pertains to their education. What is around the corner or lies next in this chapter of my life? For a young lady in her freshman year of high school to have to ponder thoughts of having done a better job in school if the adults in her life were there on a more consistent basis is to me the most appalling and disrespectful thing that a school district could do to the students they are entrusted to educate. These are the byproducts of a school takeover.
Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg for many of our young adults as they navigate their high school years in an attempt to present the best snapshot of themselves to universities, career path programs or military recruiters.
Shawn says that at the beginning of the school year she had most of her teachers, but by midyear, many of them started to dwindle. In an in depth conversation with her, she expressed the lack of mutual respect from faculty and students. There were too many back and forth verbal spats that would show blatant disrespect from students and a total lack of professionalism in response from teachers as well, and there was no consistent form of discipline established by the school administration.
“Words can’t explain – horrible. Leaky roofs, holes in the floor, window units that have to be turned off because they leak in the room and some just don’t work.” Shawn’s description of the high school that she will hold memories of for the rest of her life was truly gripping. These conditions they expect our children to concentrate and retain information in are horrendous. The OPSB and Superintendent Henderson Lewis should be held accountable for such buildings in major disrepair. Additionally, as her freshman year progressed, Shawn had to deal with the inconsistency from her teachers, an act which is usually a byproduct of a school that is in limbo. Meaning the district is trying to decide what is going to happen with the school the following school year. This chain of events usually keeps parents, students, and school staff in a state of being held, hostage.
“We would hear teachers gossiping about the school being taken over, but when we would ask what is happening with the school or what would happen next year we would never get a straight answer – just the run around and incomplete thoughts,” uttered Shawn. “To not know is unsettling but I still have to do my best and hope for better to come.”
Finally, after many closed door meetings, public meetings, an outcry from alumni and the other bureaucracy that goes on at OPSB an announcement was made and Eleanor McMain Secondary School was awarded to InspireNola charter management group.
“We were finally told who was going to get the school, and they did come and talk to us, and it sounds good, yet we will see and seeing is believing. I am still hoping for the best, and I will do my best and do my part.”
Shawn’s voice is a symbol, and her optimism is a beacon for many of our young adults nationwide. Her voice resonates and represents the commitment from so many of these young adults who are treading water in this vast system we call education. Honestly, they don’t have time to wait on us to figure it out. They are unwavering and dedicated in their pursuit of education, holistic life lessons, and trials which will make them stronger and better.
Can we please meet the Shawns of our communities, our cities and of our nation with the same vigor, optimism, and dedication that they are bringing to the table? Their future depends on it!