For those of us in the education world, plenty of bad news seems to be heading our way from Raleigh. My recent conversations in the community have reminded me that funding cuts to public education hurt much more than educators and children. The ramifications of less money for schools are deep and have a lasting impact for our community’s future. An undereducated workforce affects the local economy. Poorly educated citizens diminish our democracy. Under-resourced schools hinder growth.
Yet I have hope. My conversations also remind me that Charlotte-Mecklenburg has a rich tradition of supporting public education. Our community led the country in public school desegregation. Many bold public, faith and corporate leaders have stepped up through the years to support our schools. Charlotte is still a community that believes in public education.
I see examples of this collective support of our schools every day in the Freedom Schools summer literacy programs. Over 20 faith groups, corporations and universities are extending the school year investment made in children to provide a safe, engaging place for kindergarten through eighth graders to spend the summer. As low-income children often lose two to three months of reading during the summer, quality summer programs are critical to ensure that children have the literacy skills needed to succeed in school, develop the character strengths needed to make good decisions and believe they are a part of a broad community that believes in them.
Partnerships that support Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are growing stronger each year. One example of new collaboration is Trinity Presbyterian Church working with Church at Charlotte to serve children from Sharon Elementary School who live in the Gladedale Charlotte Housing Authority community. Many more partnerships like this one are supporting children from every corner of our community. In addition to a summer of support for children who need it most, these collaborations show children firsthand what a community working together can accomplish: Safety, fun, learning and love.
I believe every child has the potential to succeed, yet not every child has the opportunity. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools cannot do this work alone, but in the tradition of this strong community, we can pull together to ensure that all children grow into their full potential. Long-time Charlotteans and newcomers alike have a role to play. We must step up as a community to work together and help children grow up strong for the sake of our collective future.
Mary Nell McPherson is the executive director of the educational nonprofit Freedom School Partners.
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