It Takes a Village
By Rob Sanford
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
Coretta Scott King (2000)
I remember my dad playing catch with me when I was 7, and my mom walking me through multiplication tables when I was 10. I remember older Boy Scouts teaching me leadership skills when I was 13, and the many moments my English teacher gave me guidance when I was 15. When I applied for college, a counselor at my school walked me through every difficult step. When I arrived at college, many more counselors appeared in the form of professors, upperclassmen, and employers.
I’m the benefactor of fantastic communities, communities different in appearance but identical in purpose: providing support to one another. I would not be where I am today without the help of those named, in addition to many more unnamed relatives, neighbors, and friends that supported me. If you know what I’m referring to – if you, like me, can pinpoint the people that taught you those invaluable lessons that stick with you today – then you are among the fortunate ones.
As it happens, however, there exists a population of people here in D.C. who are not as fortunate and lack that kind of support. According to results of the 2017 edition of the PARCC, a standardized exam given in DC public schools, 82% of white students are on course to go to college and begin careers, while only about a quarter of black and Latino students can say the same. 60,000 D.C. students are not reading at grade level, and over 850, or 27%, of DCPS high school seniors failed to graduate last year.
“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address (1961)
In a city known for politics, it’s tempting to point fingers at the government. As politically engaged individuals, we can criticize city officials for inept actions or lack of any actions at all. But there’s a difference between political engagement and civic engagement. The former is respectable; born in our founding documents, it asks that first we listen closely before choosing wisely at the ballot box. But the latter is extraordinary. It asks not for passive attention, but demands that we roll up our sleeves and take things into our own hands.
At DCTMI, we believe it’s on us to forge relationships, construct communities, and reach out to those in need. We believe that if each of us took an hour out of their week to be that tutor, that mentor, that counselor that plays a priceless part in someone’s life, the city would be a more compassionate and equitable place for all.
Join us and our numerous partner organizations for CivicFest on Saturday, July 21st to learn how you can play a valuable role in our community. Connect with nonprofits doing the long-term work that needs to be done in education, the environment, reproductive rights, and social justice. Find out more and get tickets at civicfest.us!