Education is key.
After venting to my dad about how nervous I was to take my first upper division class in the political science department, he said something I will never forget: “Mags, there’s nothing you don’t know that you can’t learn.” These are words I’ve thought back to time and time again – when I get a bad grade, struggle understanding a concept in class, or spend 8 hours trying to navigate the inner works of WordPress. I consider my constant desire to learn more, my genuine enjoyment of my seminar classes, my craving to find the answers to questions, a privilege.
I grew up in a house where education was valued, and where my best performance was expected. I went to a very small private school from kindergarten to 8th grade, and then a large public high school before attending Shepherd University. Education was always a given for me. School was always a place where I felt like I belonged, weather I wanted to be there on that particular day or not.
Unfortunately, this is not the experience of millions of children in the U.S. today. I learned this first hand while volunteering with Children’s Home Society in Martinsburg, WV. The Children’s Home Society has a tutoring program that services students from low-income communities who are referred by their teachers for at risk of failing. Every other Saturday the children come in and work on homework, math, reading, and spelling worksheets, and arts and craft activities.
I learned a few things very quickly. First, these kids are not aware of their immense capacity to learn. Second, most believe that they are not capable of producing good work. Third, no one at home is monitoring or encouraging their academic success. It is so easy for these students to slip through the cracks in the public school system. Many students who fail are eventually passed on because the teacher doesn’t have either the desire or resources to get them up to speed.
This experience in working to empower youth through education has led me to pursue a career as a teacher, and maybe one day, to impact education policymaking. Every student, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic status, deserves to be given the opportunity I was. Everyone deserves to be told that they are smart, capable, and valuable to our world. It’s my goal as a future educator to make sure each of my students know and believes this about themselves.
~Maggie Cohee Nevin