Mind the Gap: Saying Farewell

An inner-city schoolteacher says farewell to his first graduating class.

Dear Class of 2010:

We had an inauspicious start two years ago—one of you stormed cursing and bellowing out of class on the second day of school after getting into an argument with a classmate. I felt like the world's most impotent teacher, and the next two years of my commitment to Teach for America felt like a jail sentence.

But we persevered. We worked hard, very hard, on everything from interpersonal relationships to literacy strategies to restaurant etiquette, and two years later you are set to graduate from high school. Some of you are the first in your family to do so—either way, you are deserving of much praise and celebration.

My message to you going forward is a simple one—while life is about to get much more difficult, you can handle it. And always remember our classroom motto: Anything is possible.

College is tough, and you'll encounter all sorts of challenges along the way—academically, socially, financially, even emotionally. By and large you haven't received the rigorous education that is necessary to immediately handle college-level work. This sad fact does not mean you will not be able to cut it in college, it just means you’ll need to wholeheartedly commit yourself to your studies.

When you have issues with the quality and quantity of work expected of you, seek help. Your tuition covers a writing center, peer tutoring, or other types of academic services—utilize them! There's no need to be a hero, and when in doubt, group up with classmates and forge through these challenges together.

The real trick will be juggling this academic work with increased financial pressures in a new social environment, all the while living or commuting farther from home. Be proactive, steering clear of the factors in your community that stress you out, and candidly tell your support system that you are really going to need their help over the course of the next few years.

While the reality of the situation you face is grim, the sooner we confront it and talk about how to deal with it, the better. About 95 percent of you are going to community college in the city, schools that are part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Yet only 28 percent of students attending CUNY two-year schools graduate within six years, their associate's degree in hand.

My experiences with you over the last two years give me faith that you can meet and exceed the challenges you will soon confront. You have navigated your way through myriad obstacles to earn your high school diploma. Some of you have lost relatives along the way, been by your mother’s side when she passed away in the hospital, or watched as your brother got stabbed in your kitchen. You’ve watched friends and neighbors fall off the school track—more than 100 students were in your freshmen class four years ago, yet only 52 of you are graduating today.

And as the refrain of that Langston Hughes poem goes, you’re still here. I will never forget when you stood last year in Washington, D.C., a place most of you had viewed as distant and foreign, just months prior to watching President Obama’s inaugural address. At that moment, on what for some of you was your first foray out of New York City, as you stood on the spot where Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech and danced in front of the Capitol Building, you metaphorically screamed out: "You can’t hide us anymore—here we are, world!"

Whatever deficits you may have with some skills, you are enormously perceptive and expressive in other areas. Your social commentary has moved me. Your persistence has inspired me. You are an agent for change in this world, and you cannot let others—adults, most especially—inhibit you.

Most of you have faced an uphill battle since the day you were born. For better or worse, you are largely unaware of how severely the deck has been stacked against you. The world you are about to encounter is full of people trying to get theirs. You need to get yours, too, and you need to find allies along the way to help ensure that you do.

I believe in you. Believe in yourself. Anything is possible.


Mr. Lowe

Brendan Lowe is a Teach for America corps member who is in his second year of teaching high school in the South Bronx.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less