Students: Make a "PACT" to invest in each other
Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt grew up in the 80’s in a challenged neighborhood of a challenged big city. Fortunately, as teenagers, they were selected to attend a magnet high school where they met and where they formed a pact.
The pact was that they would graduate, go to college and attend medical school. Despite the odds, because they had each other, and this commitment to reach their goal together, it’s a happy ending. Today two of them are physicians and one is a dentist. They formed a foundation, called 3 Doctors, to inspire and support young people. They share their story in two books: for youth, “We Beat the Streets;” and for adults, “The Pact.”
To students, just like Sam, George and Rameck, you can form a pact to take responsibility for one another’s success. Adults, we must teach our children how to be supportive and must be role models. Using the acronym, P-A-C-T, allow me share some ideas.
P- Potential. School should be about recognizing, nurturing and unleashing your personal potential - help each other realize your fullest potential so that you can make your unique contribution. Right now, look at your thumbprint. There is, and only will be, one of you, forever! We are all better off when we support each other to make our unique contribution. Adults, we have to see our students as unique individuals and ensure that our schools are set up to celebrate diversity in all ways.
A – Allies. Allies choose to use their advantages to benefit others. Be an ally to one another. Share information and use your connections to include classmates in sports, clubs, student government, challenging classes and the activities outside of school that are of benefit to you. Parents, bring your resources to bear for the benefit of your whole school community; engage in your child’s school to ensure the success of every child.
C – Community. Build community by attending each other’s sporting events, debates, musical performances, theatrical productions and art displays. Talk about and plan on how to realize your future dreams. Study together; share a focus on being a successful student. Identify ways to include your whole school or class to have fun together: meet up at a Bulls game or attend a free downtown cultural event. Volunteer together: build a Habitat House; do a creek clean up; take care of your school campus. The ideas on how to create community are endless.
Parents, organize opportunities for families to get to know one another through activities, such as a playground party, Sunday picnic or a nature walk. Many of the friends I have today I met as a kindergarten parent and through groups such as Girl Scouts, athletic associations and PTA.
T –TEAM. Think of your class and school as a team. On successful teams, everyone is supported to contribute their best. When we all contribute our best, we share the victory.
When I sit on the stage at the high school graduations, it’s wonderful to see how the senior class has bonded: There’s a joyful spirit; they clap and cheer for the student speeches and performances; they have inside jokes and shared memories; the principals usually say things like, “This class has been such a joy, I am going to miss them.”
Students, don’t wait until your senior year to form a pact. Make a pact now to invest in one another’s potential. Be allies when you have the opportunity to do so. Involve yourselves in each other’s pursuits and be a comfort when your classmates fall short but encourage perseverance. Hold each other up to high expectations for academic and extracurricular pursuits and for behavior. Make your school a place of inclusion, ensuring everyone’s success, and a community focused on a celebration of our uniqueness.
Nancy Cox is a member of the Durham Board of Educatation and a former AVID teacher with DPS. This is a modification of talk given at Carrington Middle School’s eighth grade celebration.