Monday, August 2, 2010

Time to Turn the Calendar...

Don’t get me wrong, I love summer. But each year growing up, I was always itching to go back to school by the time August rolled around. I remember the nervous excitement that would build through the entire month of August as I gradually found out about teachers, bus routes, and locker assignments.

Although Chicago’s current blazing heat would suggest otherwise, the school year is quickly approaching. Along with the chance for department stores to capitalize on “back-to-school sales,” it is also a time when the media turns its attention to the state of American education.

As discussed in a recent New York Times article, our country’s “dismal” college completion rate is an issue that must be addressed while youth are still in their kindergarten through high school years. Even for those of us not living in neighborhoods with failing schools, this issue should cause us deep concern. In fact, the president of the College Board asserted that “The growing education deficit is no less a threat to our nation’s long-term well-being than the current fiscal crisis.” Sorry for the bad news.

While distressing statistics pervading the news should certainly elicit our alarm, they should not leave us feeling powerless. In fact, this is an excellent opportunity for us to reflect upon what we can personally do to turn things around—if not for entire school systems, perhaps for an individual student.

As T/MC President Dan Bassill discusses in his recent blog entry, this is a vital time for tutor/mentor programs to recruit volunteers and supporters. I urge you to explore the T/MC Program Locator to find a program in the Chicago-land community where you can become a mentor for the 2010-2011 school year. If working with students directly is not where you feel drawn, consider what else you might offer an organization: website design, event planning, administrative work, advocacy, donations…the list goes on. Any type of support is desperately needed to sustain the hundreds of tutor/mentor programs throughout the city (not to mention thousands of other programs throughout the U.S.).

Having just graduated from college, I am still in the habit of thinking of this season as a time of transition and an upcoming “fresh start.” Although this mentality might change as I move from school toward a career, I still hope to use this time period to think about my personal choices, aspirations, and commitments. I encourage you to join me in reflecting upon what we can each do during this season to invest in education—be it our own or that of someone else.

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