Like many of you, I’ve labored for years in urban environs to encourage and empower children. My immersion as an individual CCD practitioner began with mentoring at an inner city neighborhood kids club. After marrying and while raising our daughter, my next season was in vibrant communities within two Title I public grade schools. I was living in the tension of navigating dual language immersion academics, socio-economic and cultural diversity, and walking to school everyday with many amazing undocumented mamas that treated our entire school as La Familia.
I believe in the good of public schools and the hope for a prosperous future they can provide for all of America’s children. Our daughter is now a senior, flourishing at a very diverse neighborhood public high school. Her varied experiences in public school have well prepared her to engage in a globalized world.
Yet, as you also know, our cities remain plagued with stacked poverty, segregation and broken families. Far too many kids and their families fall through the broad cracks of America’s systems and are in need of cohesive community to wholistically support them. So many students are not well prepared for life. I still experience deep grief over every high school student I now mentor who is unable to read at grade level.
However, there’s some good news out there that I want to share with you! Recently, happenings in two urban public school districts have been highlighted in the media. One in Chicago, my hometown, and the other in New York. These stories have given me a renewed hope for the future of our urban public schools. In both stories, two grade schools are pursuing a merger because of overcrowding in a resourced area school and available seats in a neighboring under-resourced school.
I could easily be cynical and say that the affluent in these scenarios will simply take over and dominate. After all, the pace of gentrification in our US cities is alarming and many of our under-resourced families are being rapidly displaced. Yet, I wonder… could our God be up to creating some different models of good in these gentrification scenarios that many of us only grieve? And might the reported openness towards collaboration in these two schools represent this good?
We all know the heart-moving power of spending time with others in community who are not like us and many young affluent urban parents are very involved in their children’s schools. Might these two schools possibly be a new model of building understanding and heart-change around the gifts and strengths of an intentionally blended, diverse school community?
Yes, there are certainly cautionary flags. Yet, the title of the Brooklyn article is really true. No one, regardless of their position in life, really wants to live in a ghetto, and the content of the article gives me a glimmer of hope around hearts being changed when families of varied walks of life work together towards the common good, especially for our children in urban communities.
The possibility of creating new parent-initiated collaborating models for our urban school districts is exciting, and honestly, it’s simply refreshing to see these parents looking for different solutions rather than choosing segregation, dominant culture flight or not considering the common good of all in an extremely challenging situation.
Oh God, please give us the strength to continue in your work. Help us to see how we can come alongside what you’re up to in our midst. Keep our prayers and lives flowing towards solidarity with this education justice movement for all America’s children!
Diane Miller is an individual Chicago practitioner and part of CCDA’s Cohort 6. Church friends label her the CCD Mama, and she blogs about her journey at connectingood.com. She is passionate about starting a movement of women in abandoning fear and choosing integrated lifestyles of diversity to redefine American prosperity! Meet up with her in Memphis at the “Calling all CCD Ladies” networking session on November 13th.