Encouraging youth to succeed

Larry Sutton Contributing columnist

November 23, 2013

The Sampson NAACP’s “March on Sampson County for a Better Future for Our Youth” was a good way to start a community dialogue on education and its impact on every facet of community growth and development. To have been given an opportunity to come together as a diverse community, uniting behind a mission to encourage and motivate our youth was a dream come true.

Now, it’s the day after, and as a community, what do we do next? Where do we go from here? Do we simply return to our routine, remaining apathetic and disinterested? Or, is it time we all take an interest in the education of all children, giving every child “a shot at a decent future?”

Maybe it’s time for parents, educators and all community stake-holders to come together, reaffirming that we are a community committed to equal educational opportunity. If we believe all children can learn, then why are we not doing more to ensure they do?

The well-being of our youth is something we all should be concerned about, wanting to find out what’s behind excessive failing grades, a lack of participation, disruptive behavior and a growing sense of hopelessness. In many cases, these are cries for help. And I don’t think we are doing enough to find ways to improve the educational outcomes for these children. We have to do more to help all our children experience educational success early and often, helping them to realize their potential. It was Frederick Douglass, black abolitionist and father of the early Civil Rights Movement, who once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

While addressing the topic of black male achievement at a conference hosted by the National Press Club on June 14, 2011, Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, remarked, “Children are suffering from a toxic cocktail of poverty, illiteracy, racial discrimination and massive incarceration that sentences poor boys to dead-end and hopeless lives.” Today, this has become one of the most challenging problems in American public education.

In a recent “Chamber Chat” article in The Sampson Independent, the subject was on barriers and threats to progress and economic growth within Sampson County. Well, it is my firm belief that the success of all students will ensure a community’s economic growth and development, providing a more qualified potential workforce that results in greater earnings, a larger tax base and higher productivity.

As a community, we need to let the “March on Sampson County for a Better Future for Our Youth” become the catalyst that allows our families, schools, communities and government leaders to recommit to improving educational outcomes for all children. We all can play a part in making each school a more effective school, emphasizing high expectations for all students as well as all staff and promoting the success of all children.

We should never let any students feel that we have given up on their ability to learn. So let’s continue marching to encourage our youth.

Yes “it will be up to the youth to decide to turn things around,” relying on greater personal responsibility, but this is a task that requires our entire community’s support as well.