Volunteers needed to help Youngstown students succeed

It was an encouraging sight in late August to see men and women of all races and faiths, and many students, come together to pray for the Youngstown City Schools in general and East High School in particular.

As you’ve been reading in this paper as well as viewing on broadcast reports, the city schools are in serious trouble. There is plenty of blame for everyone, but the time for pointing fingers is over.

Every parent and stakeholder in the future of this city’s education system must now roll up their sleeves and begin the work of resolving the problems.

The school system didn’t fall into disarray overnight, so there is no immediate remedy forthcoming. But there should be a mindset that the problems can and will be solved.

That is why the March 4 Hope provided a positive first step toward change. It was a grass-roots effort spearheaded by local pastors, their congregants and numerous volunteers.

As hundreds marched from Price Memorial AME Zion Church on Dryden Avenue to East High School, I was impressed by the spirit of cooperation that enveloped the group.

I thought that if that same spirit could be bottled up and given to everyone who was involved in the school system – from the janitors to the bus drivers to CEO Krish Mohip – the school district would be well on its way to righting the wrongs.

I heard Mohip speak for the first time during the program and rally in the EHS auditorium that followed the march. He was enthusiastic; he was positive; and he was clear in his mission: With the help of parents, teachers and students, the school district would become the best in the state, and one of the best in the nation.

That may seem like hyperbole, but it was a pleasant change to hear someone in that position give a word of encouragement that everyone could understand and appreciate.

Every child has the ability to learn, and I believe no child wants to fail. The problems inner-city children face daily are challenging, but there are programs in place now, and those that will be put in place, that can and will help them move forward, not only in school, but in life.

Coach James “Dru” Joyce, the high-school basketball coach of LeBron James, said something that stuck with me, and I hope it resonated with every person in that auditorium. He challenged the audience to be “stars in their roles.” Teachers should come committed daily to encourage students to be the best they can be. Students should come committed daily to listen and learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, challenge yourself to rise above mediocrity, strive for excellence.

Parents and guardians need to recognize their children’s weaknesses and strengths and help position their children to be successful. Administrators should come committed daily to ensure they are leading by positive example.

If raising the academic standard for city schools is the No. 1 priority, then everyone in the school district, or who represents the district, should be on the same page.

The school board can be a great resource to help Mohip guide the district back uphill – if it chooses to take that route.

We can argue about the legality of the state law that created Mohip’s position and authority until we are blue in the face. But I suggest the best way for the board to regain its leadership role is to work with the person designated by the state to get the job done. The sooner the district moves forward and improves its academic standing to and above state standards, the sooner a duly-elected board can resume its control.

There is no doubt some parents may not be fully capable of meeting their child’s academic needs. They need help.

Toward that end, there is a community volunteers informational meeting at Choffin Career and Technical Center, 200 E. Wood St., from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 19. Linda Hoey of Parent Pathways is the contact person.

Hoey gave an impassioned plea to the audience near the end of the rally for people to sign up. No one has the definitive book on parenting. Rearing children differs from household to household, culture to culture.

Hoey asks the prospective volunteers to come to the meeting with an open mind and a focused desire to help children reach their potential.

If you are interested, come to the meeting or call Hoey at 330-740-8776 for additional information.

Also, The Taft Promise Neighborhood project is looking for retired teachers to volunteer one day a week at Taft Elementary School, 730 E. Avondale Ave.

The project also is looking for women mentors to work with the girls at Taft. Mentors would have a program booklet to follow in their mentoring efforts. The project coordinators are particularly asking for minority volunteers.

The contacts are Diane Gonda of VISTA at dgonda@ymvunitedway.org, or L.K. Williams, youth council adviser for the Youngstown Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, at 330-788-1005.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com.

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