During the school year, you can find me working all day every Saturday with high school students and families served through the college prep organization I co-founded with my wife in 2009. The commitment is intense and I am often asked what would possess us to spend each Saturday in this academic grind.
It's because we recognize these students’ massive potential. And because we understand the collective urgency, intensity and investment it will take to help them deliver on their potential. It is also because of the unfortunate reality that our public education system is not providing the quality education all students deserve. Investing our Saturdays in this way has been rewarding: we have helped many low-income and minority students gain access to the nation’s top colleges.
But how do we push our entire education system toward excellence so that it prepares every Delaware child for success? How can we ensure that our public education system meets its promise as an engine of social and economic mobility?
We are not there yet in Delaware.
I worked in the Delaware Department of Education for four years and in that time I sat in many meetings where I was the only person of color in the room. Parent, student and community voices, especially from those that look like me, were not a valued part of the conversation. As a result, interest groups and insiders had an outsized impact on policy. This meant the policy conversations generally lacked a sense of urgency and often focused more on adult convenience than on students’ needs.
But what is clear every moment I spend with kids is this: students can’t wait. After my four years at the Delaware Department of Education and during my one-year fellowship with 50CAN, I had the opportunity to speak with more than 150 people about education across Delaware.
Here’s what I know as a result: It will take a grassroots movement to create the transformation our education system needs.
That’s why today — after nearly a year of research and planning — I’m excited to launch DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now. DelawareCAN is a statewide nonprofit organization that empowers, mobilizes and collaborates with everyday Delawareans to advocate for a high-quality education system. We will engage a diverse set of voices to advocate for education policies that truly benefit our communities. And we will work directly with policymakers and with legislators to ensure the education system we have is the the type our children deserve. As the tenth state in a national network that includes advocacy campaigns in neighborhing Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, we will also be able to leverage insights from other states to strengthen our local agenda.