Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Opportunities lead to possibilities


Meet Jordan. Jordan is 11-years old, loves technology, and loves to write and draw. He’s a thinker. He keeps a daily journal of his experiences and processes what he sees and hears through his journal. He’s a polite kid who greets you when you walk in the door. He’s a leader. When you ask him what his favorite thing to do is, he can’t decide…playing chess, taking pictures, working on the computer, doing computer animation, doing science projects…they’re all his favorites, he says. He absorbs what is being taught…and, like many other 5th grade boys, he does a good job of getting the entire class off track when he decides to be the class clown. What does he want to do when he grows up? He’s not sure about that yet.

Jordan is no different than any other 5th grade boy. However, the community where he is growing up is different than a lot of other communities. In Jordan’s community, only 53% graduate from high school…only 6% graduate from college. In 2002, 109 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 19 had children. In 2004 there were 20 murders…and only one of them led to an arrest. In 2000, 368 homes still had incomplete plumbing (http://www.analyzedallas.org/). Most communities like Jordan's don't have the opportunities that even allow them to test out and dream about digital photography, computer animation, etc.

Jordan is a bright and eager learner with a mom who is willing to pay the $5 a month fee to encourage him to develop his newfound skills. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how bright and eager someone is if they don't have the opportunities to explore their options in life. Not every parent can afford to send their children to various extracurricular activities that tap into their child’s interests. Not every community has an After-School Academy that focuses on bringing atypical programming like digital photography, art, and technology to a community. When children don't have opportunities to develop and deepen their talents it is unfortunate for them, but it is also unfortunate for the rest of us who could have benefitted from what they have to offer. Who's to say that Jordan might not be the next astronaut or the person who finds the cure for cancer, given the right opportunities and academic support while he is still young.

Jordan still has a long, tough road ahead of him simply because of the neighborhood and the pressures around him on a daily basis. The After-School Academy exists in order to provide a supportive environment so children can develop their interests in order to "dream and envision who they can and will one day become."

Photo is of Jordan picking blueberries at a blueberry farm in Gainesville, TX...a field trip with the Gleaning Network of Texas.
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