As a commercial landowner we are ambivalent about the effectiveness of the property taxes we pay each year to Fulton County and City of Atlanta. What do the schools around our land have to show for the $22,000 check we write each Fall? What do our sidewalks and streets have to show? What is the value of the education those children are getting in our public schools? What use are the facts they are forced to memorize and regurgitate for the purpose of tests?
How valuable is a young adult with a high school diploma coming out of the public school system here? As a business owner looking for employees I can tell you: not much.
We believe only our communities can fix our schools. Money itself is never the solution. We believe public-private partnerships should be starting in the school halls. Not in the way that it is talked about now where there is this feeling that if schools are privatized, they will be successful. Or that corporate donors are sought out when its time to fundraise once a year.
I’m talking about in a real community sense. Partnerships. Expectations that businesses that are utilizing resources and making money in those communities should be giving back within that county should be enforced. Those businesses and civic leaders in the districts and counties within which the schools sit should be tasked to share their knowledge with the children. With elementary school children. Middle school children. And high schoolers.
Why isn’t that a mandate? Children need to learn. Business owners have knowledge. Why is that not put on the table as an enforceable part of the solution? In return, children should be welcomed to walk through the doors of local businesses to learn whatever knowledge that business has to offer.
Alphonzo and I learned so much on the many days we walked through the halls of Washington Hospital after school waiting for our mom to get off her shift as a nurse. As a teenager, I volunteered as a candystriper at St. Luke’s Hospital in San Antonio where she worked. In nurses we saw leadership, honesty, commitment, kindness, and wisdom. In doctors we saw steadiness and knowledge. In patients we saw fight, determination, fear, and inspiration. In the chaplains we saw faith. We saw illness and death early and often and, as a result, as we grew to adulthood we learned not to fear it.
We learned so much.
At San Francisco International Airport, we learned leadership as we watched our dad delegate responsibility as a manager for the domestic terminal. As we watched him move from gate to gate talking to passengers we learned social skills, we learned how to calm excited people down, we learned about time constraints and taking personal responsibility (when the plane leaves, it leaves, no matter how important you think you are), we learned structure, we learned how to work with team members, and considering his 30+ years working for United, we learned what dedication was.
More than anything this type of exposure taught us possibilities.
I am not the first to admit that I have no idea what to say to kids half the time. My brother and I speak to them the same way we speak to adults. Like they are fully actualized humans. Because somewhere inside of them, they are already. They may not understand everything consciously yet but they have a better grasp on reality than most adults and an honesty that allows them to learn. And feeding that energy with something positive, showing them that the community cares enough to turn their attention to them for an hour or two to share not what comes out of books but what comes out of experience, that is where change is made. That is how we move forward. Cultures used to have oral traditions that passed down knowledge from one generation to the next. Not we have tv. This is not acceptable.
HABESHA Works is a wonderful program that understands this necessary partnership through and through. They have brought their children to our store to ask us questions, to learn about food, to learn about business, to learn whatever it is we have to share with them. They are in our community and we have a commitment to make time for those young minds and even if it is just for 30 minutes or an hour, they get our full attention because we care what happens to them. As a result the kids that go through that program are some of the sharpest young minds I have ever met. For 11 years they have been teaching and growing a generation of leaders. Please help support them as they celebrate their anniversary this Friday.
The more they know, the more they grow. We owe it to our children for businesses to be engaged with schools.
© 2012 The Boxcar Grocer.