I’ve not actually seen Waiting for Superman, mostly because I know the story. Free public education is both the greatest promise and greatest failure of our country. It can seem overwhelming to think about fixing it.
The movie title comes from a story told by the CEO of an incredible program in Harlem:
One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me ‘Superman’ did not exist. Cause even in the depths of the ghetto you just thought he was coming… She thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Claus is not real. I was crying because no one was coming with enough power to save us.
I just read a great piece suggesting that while Superman isn’t coming, we have another great option: Ralph Hinkley, a.k.a. The Greatest American Hero.
Plenty of us have the desire, drive, and ability to accomplish something great, and we shouldn’t let something as minor as not having an instruction manual for accomplishing The One Great Thing stop us from doing Many Really Good Things along the way.
Today, I beg for your help with one Really Good Thing.
I’ve blogged about the Sunflower County Freedom Project before, and maybe you haven’t yet checked it out, or you checked it out, but it didn’t really connect for you.
Here’s the situation. These kids are living in one of the poorest parts of the country, in a county with a crushing teen pregnancy rate and a drop-out rate of at least 41%. That means that for every 100 kids who enter high school, only 59 graduate, and those are the conservative numbers. Fifty years ago, these kids’ grandparents and great-grandparents were being intimidated, beat up, jailed, and sometimes killed for daring to think they deserved to vote.
The Sunflower County Freedom Project provides year-round academic enrichment and mentoring that helps these phenomenal kids overcome serious odds, find hope, and not just graduate from high school, but get into college and graduate from college.
This is life-changing stuff.
The Project staff just got the great news that as many as 12 new students want to sign up and make the commitment to take part in the program. The problem is that they live one town over from Sunflower, which means they don’t have a way to get to the program after school or on Saturdays.
No public transportation in the Mississippi Delta, y’all.
Imagine. You are 13, 14, or 15 years old. You actively want to commit to taking part in a program that can dramatically improve your chances in life, not just the chance to graduate from high school, but to attend college (probably the first in your family) and get a job that pays more than minimum wage.
And the one thing stopping you is a ride.
The Sunflower County Freedom Project needs a new van. Not necessarily new-new, just new to them. It will probably take between $10,000 and $20,000 to get it (and insure it, and keep it in gas and registration for a year, make sure the tires are good, etc.).
Whatever it takes, please give something. These kids aren’t asking for Superman. They’re asking for a chance to be their own heroes, and asking for a van.
I’m talking later today to someone who mentioned knowing a car dealer in Jackson—do you know anyone in Jackson? Anyone from Mississippi? Will they chip in? Work your networks. Let’s make it happen. Let’s not wait for Superman. Let’s do it ourselves.