Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bayview youth and educators have what it takes

Pictured are Quesada Gardens resident organizers in front of Carver Elementary in 2006 when a school-based garden project was in development.

Today’s SF Chronicle devotes space on its front page to the subject of Bayview Hunters Point children, youth, and their education in the context of challenges most students never have to face. It is an important set of reportage, not just because the subject is critical, but because the journalists approach it from the perspective of those who achieve rather than those who do not.

The Chronicle probes a kindergarten class of students from George Washington Carver School from 1996, taught by Kanikah LeMon, to see what the now eighteen-year-old youth who were in that class are doing. Turn the page on a listing of facts that make graduation from high school seem unlikely, to individual profiles of success that turn the tables on statistics and stereotypes to show the power of individual spirit, family, faith, community, and educators who go the extra mile every day in an event without end.

The heroes are young people who have turned challenge into success: Terrell Gunn, Kanikah LeMon, Cris Seals, Jeremy Beasley, Latasha Allston, George Washington, Ja’Bar Gibson, Sylvia Johnson, and Gerrine Washington. Yet the heroes, themselves, each acknowledge others who were essential to their success in life thus far.

Featuring problems in the community, as those who care about Bayview Hunters Point often say, is all too easy. Profiles of individuals who achieved success or contributed to it, despite those problems, are rare. Today’s profiles contribute to a strength-based approach to social change that spreads responsibility for education and youth development broadly while, at the same time, maintaining a focus on individual responsibility.

The press about these former Carver Elementary students and those who helped them is a highpoint in an ongoing story. The community of people connected to the Quesada Gardens Initiative and Bayview Footprints Network has interacted with this story in the past, and no doubt will in the future as part of a social fabric that can support or breakdown on the strength or weakness of a few threads.

Louise Jones, respected educator and former Carver Elementary principal, engaged us in bringing a health fair to the Southeast Sector Community Facility, and still uses her chair on the Facility’s Commission to advocate for youth, families and education. Emily Wade-Thompson, current principal at Carver, made it clear how she makes a mission of her job when community gardeners worked with her in an attempt to bring a school-based garden to Carver. Cris Seals volunteered at the Bayview YMCA and went on to win a Jefferson Award. Latasha Allston participated in Pathlight’s community theater productions and was part of the community-based response to the tragic death of Antwanisha Morgan.

Today’s kindergarten students face barriers to graduation that are every bit as daunting as those faced by the young people who were profiled in today’s paper. The dual message that emerges in the collective voice of young people and educators like those in the set of articles today is as critical now as ever.

Young people should hear that achieving an education and success in life happens when students find and nurture the best in themselves. Community members should hear that our untiring support of education and youth girds the bridge between challenges facing children and a feature story in the media of 2012 about Bayview Hunters Point’s high graduation rates.

No comments: