Once again, I'm hitting the pavement bring awareness to important issues and to promote my passions. In October I'll be running to raise awareness about mental heath and suicide with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and End 22 in the Chicago Marathon. #Running262toEnd22
Then, in November, I'll be taking on the five burroughs of NYC to promote the most provident tool a person can obtain: LITERACY! I am elated to work with Literacy Partners, Inc. #RunToRead
I am a high school English teacher. I have worked in three different school systems in highly transient areas -- all of which supported a large population of students from low-income families. I currently live and work in a military hub. The Hampton Roads area is home to 15 military installations (including the largest Navy base in the world). Sadly, this area also boasts a crime rate that is higher per capita than that of Chicago and New York. It is known as one of the top thirty murder capitals of the United States.
When I first started teaching, I would fall asleep each night to the sound of gunshots and sirens. I'd wake up to trashed streets, smashed car windows, opened glove compartments, and homeless people hiding in the houses being constructed down the block. It was the norm and I adapted. While I experienced these things from my gated apartment, I couldn't help but think about my past and present students. I thought about the ones who didn't have a home to go to when they left school at the end of the day. I ached for the ones who had asked me for a granola bar or bag of pretzels from my food closet before they had left my class to walk to their shared housing because they knew they wouldn't have another meal until their free breakfast at school the next morning. I had to stop watching the news before work gang violence was claiming the lives of so many teenagers and their families ... I was often hesitant to question if someone knew where an absent student might be.
When I moved to Hampton and (later Norfolk) to teach, the narrative was no different: I would fall asleep to gunshots and sirens while I lay in my comfy bed, inside my beautiful home nestled on the edge of the 'hood, but still close enough to the up and coming neighborhood to be relevant ... and I'd worry myself sick about my babies.
Every day, I plead with my students who are traveling down the wrong path; I tell them about my former students. I tell them their success stories, but I also tell them of the ones who didn't make it ... the ones who didn't survive the chaos of the culture in which they were cyclically raised ... the ones whose blood was shed before they even had a chance to truly begin to live. Poverty is vicious; it often coincides with crime and a lack of education. And to be honest, those are heavy stones to turn over alone. Every day they are in my classroom, I do my very best to show them that I love them. Sometimes that requires me to be tough; sometimes that requires me to be the shoulder to cry on; and sometimes that requires me to be the parent giving them the guidance and advice they need. The greatest gift of love that I give them is a valuable, transferable education—because that is what will help them escape. Yes, I teach them how to read and write; but, I also teach them the pertinent skills of life—how to thrive in the world—not to merely exist. The level of resilience I’ve seen in my kids is incredible. A family of four sleeps in their car, and the kids make it to school each day. No one knows their struggle. A fifteen-year-old girl and her mother were held hostage in a remote area by her drug-dealing-father; she moved here two years ago, but is still haunted by the past. No one knows that she has considered suicide. A young man comes to school with a damp shirt each day; he only has two. Every night, he hand-washes his shirt in the sink of his family’s cold, dark apartment. The electricity has been cut off, but thankfully the water still runs. Their lives are laden with negativity and burdens that no person should ever have to bear. Yet somehow, these kids rise. I know that when my kids are struggling, they need someone to be consistent and unwavering. They need someone to care. They need someone to be their advocate, someone to be their light in the darkness. Through love, compassion, and education, I bring them out of the shadows. Literacy is the key that opens the door to a new life for many of my students. Unfortunately, the cycle of crime and poverty often robs me of at least a few of my students each year. I am confident that this cycle can be broken through positive interventions, strategic supports, greater academic resources, literacy, and most importantly, love.
The TCS New York City Marathon provides a powerful platform for me to fundraise and raise awareness for Literacy Partners. Every dollar raised will help Literacy Partners provide free literacy and language classes to low-income parents along with a home library of children’s books for their families.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit bit.ly/RuntoRead.