A Deeper Calling

Practical educational and civic transformation.

A Deeper Calling

Written by: Molly Stawinoga

My original plan and reason for coming to D.C. this summer was to work at the U.S. Department of State, in a high-level office with access to information that impacted national security. While waiting for my security clearance, I continued interviewing with organizations in Washington in case I found a better or more inspiring offer.

Clearly, I am not working at the Department of State — rather, I found that “more inspiring offer:” working in the community for a mission I am passionate about and for an organization that I am dedicated to.

The passion for bettering education and focusing on youth to better entire communities is something that runs deep in my family, in my blood. 

My great-grandmother, Bonnie Kuehl, taught in a two-room schoolhouse in Ogallala, Nebraska, a minuscule town with vast farm fields as far as the eye can see. Included in her classes were several of her own children. That includes my great-aunt Bonnita, who was inspired to become a teacher herself. My great-grandmother had to do her own janitorial work and they had no indoor bathrooms or running water. This means Bonnie’s children (the equivalent of uncompensated teacher’s assistants) had to haul water each day to the school.

My grandmother’s sister, my great-aunt Bonnita Sherburne, spent 45 years teaching in public schools in Nebraska. She taught in special-education classrooms, even securing funds in one district to purchase a home to teach those of her students who were young adults how to cook, clean, do laundry, and so much more. Today, she is retired and focuses on her grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

My mother has been teaching elementary school in District 428 of my hometown, DeKalb, Illinois, for 25 years. She started in kindergarten and moved to second grade just a few years later before landing in a third-grade classroom for the past decade. She might be counting down the days until retirement (just 9 more years!), but she loves her children like no other.

You would think that with the deep history of educators, my mother would have been ecstatic when my sister thought she wanted to go to college to become an early childhood educator. Instead, my mom convinced my sister to pursue engineering.

This wasn’t because my mother hates children. It wasn’t for the fact that my sister would not be able to find a job in education. No, my mother believes that the American education system in its current state is failing — and I do not disagree. With a lack of support from the most powerful administrators and officials, lack of government funding, reliance on property taxes (leaving the poorest neighborhoods with the worst schools), low salaries and poor benefits and overall dysfunction, my mother sees that teaching for a career is often detrimental.

This was the reason I decided to pursue the “more inspiring” offer for my summer in D.C. If we live in a world where young adults are frightened to enter into the education workforce, we have deeper problems that require a deeper societal fix. This fix is a complete change of mindset. The global community must be more involved in and attuned to in the welfare of others, most specifically children. This is what we are aiming to do at the D.C. Tutoring & Mentoring Initiative.

Engaged and inspired children grow up to create an engaged and inspired community. If each child could be paired with an adult to look up to, to help them grow, to aid in times of fear, this could truly become a reality.