Something important is happening in Delaware tomorrow, and you may not even know about it. The second annual Black Student Summit, a United Way of Delaware (UWDE) and Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative initiative, is taking place. The significance of this event can be under-appreciated if it is seen to be simply a group of students getting together for a conference. This Summit promises to be far more than that.
The Summit brings together students and adults from all across Delaware who have volunteered their free time on a Saturday to listen and learn from each other. It aims to prepare students to succeed academically, professionally and personally by helping them develop the skills and tools they need as they enter adulthood.
Several students began developing skills as they planned this event and executed their plans. While at the event, students will learn the value of collective thinking and the power of advocacy. They’ll learn to articulate their feelings and ideas, to communicate effectively, to hear the opinions of others and to consider all viewpoints.
These students are leaders… not the leaders of tomorrow, they’re the leaders today. We applaud them for their initiative and commitment to improving themselves, their schools and our state.
We thank Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Mark Holodick, the school superintendents, Black Student Union advisors, teachers and parents who also give of their time and talents to support our youth. Thanks also to the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District for hosting us.
Tomorrow’s event is one of several education initiatives in which UWDE participates. This past week we hosted Pancakes and Progress, a continuing series of roundtables in which members of the business community come together to discuss ways to support the education system to help students find pathways to college and careers and become the prepared workforce of the future.
A third initiative is Success for Our Seniors (SOS), designed to help every high school senior in Delaware become successful to, through, and beyond graduation. SOS provides individualized guidance and support to help students identify the path they want to pursue after graduation, and to help move them towards achieving their goals. A pilot is underway in Dover High School with the collaboration of United Way of Delaware, the Delaware Workforce Development Board, Capital School District and numerous community-based organizations.
If you’re wondering why United Way supports these programs and numerous other ways we serve children — there is a simple one-word answer.
Children who are healthy and ready when they enter grade school, who are encouraged to learn and love reading, who are stimulated to think about what they want for themselves in life and what it will take to achieve their dreams – these are the students who stay in school and graduate, who prepare themselves for a career path, who are the workforce of the future and are leaders in our state and country.
Philosopher and sociologist Herbert Spencer said, “No one can be perfectly free till all are free; no one can be perfectly moral till all are moral; no one can be perfectly happy till all are happy.” We would like to expand that to include “no one can be prosperous until all are prosperous.” Equity in education is the first step to prosperity.
I am excited by all three of these programs, beginning with the Black Student Summit tomorrow. I look forward to being in the company of so many young people and the adults who nurture them. We believe learning is a two-way street; they will learn from us and we will learn from them.
Yes, something special is happening tomorrow in Delaware. Something that has the potential to affect change in our schools and community. I can’t wait to see what these bright young people bring to the table and what they take away as they begin their work to make Delaware a more equitable place for all its citizens.
Michelle A. Taylor, Ed.D.
President and CEO, United Way of Delaware