Failing schools have a way of harming a family for generations. I stood with thousands of other parents at Wednesday’s Rally for School Equality in Brooklyn because my family has seen firsthand the effects of not having access to high-quality schools. I’m fighting to give my kids something better — and because I believe Mayor Bill de Blasio is standing in the way of making that a reality.
I had a tough time growing up. My father was in jail most of my life. My mother and I didn’t have a steady living situation. As a kid, I bounced around from school to school. Nobody in school seemed to care much about what happened to me. None of the teachers paid attention to me or cared about the education I was receiving.
I remember going to my local zone school in the South Bronx. The school was dangerous — I never felt safe. Kids would leave class to go up to the second floor of the school and fight when they got bored. I tried my best not to get mixed up in it all and just kept my head down.
When it came time for high school, I just couldn’t imagine myself there. I was scared every day. The kids who were fighting in middle school had guns and knives now.
So I dropped out of school in the ninth grade. Pretty soon, I was 19 years old with a ninth-grade education and a baby to provide for.
Now, I work nights. I work from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and then I go home to get my kids ready for school. I’m not complaining. When my kids were born, I swore that I would make sure they would never have to go through what I did.
But when my son started kindergarten at our zone school, it was terrible. Every day, my son told me he was scared. He was bullied constantly. He was afraid to go to school. How was he supposed to focus on his learning when he was scared to walk down the hall?
I could see my life playing out all over again. And I was not going to let that happen.
We got lucky. We found out about Success Academies on the news, and we applied. We got in. It has changed our lives.
I love what my kids are learning at Success. My son plays chess every day at school. I play against him and he beats me. When I watch him play chess, I can see him thinking critically. I can see him doing the thinking that he needs to do in college.