Before the kids walked in (again, it's 5th grade, so a procession is silly), someone had put together a simple slide show with pictures of the kids and of the year. The thing that stood out to me, though was that each kid held up a sign that said what they wanted to be when they grew, and the answers were pretty astonishing.
There were the usual pro athlete answers, but there was also a considerable portion that was for the sake of this blog, "high-end educated professions" Those included things like neurosurgeons, engineers, lawyers, and others. I could not help but wonder if that was a product of the area I live in, and I think the answer is almost certainly yes.
I live in the suburbs. It's an area with high-end professionals and filled with adults who are doctors, lawyers, and engineers. It's easy for kids to see those professions. It might be their parents. It might be their friends' parents. It might just be something their parents are setting them up to strive to. Whatever it is, I think it means that it's easier for kids to dream based on their location. It made me think, "How do we break that cycle?"
I would be very curious to see the answers from children in a school with a high poverty percentage. Are their dreams the same, or are they things that simply come down to are you blessed with a certain level of talent like athletics, music, and movies? Are their dreams things that can be obtained with hard work and education, or are they things that are just a bit more out of reach?
It makes me think that we almost have to have a focus on bringing those types of professionals into high-risk schools and letting them show those kids what their profession is all about. If kids can take field trips to see their profession in action, it's even better. Schools could do something like weekly career Mystery Skypes. It's all about bringing options to kids, and with them, maybe we can break the cycles of poverty that persist in both our country and the world.
The goal should be to turn a few. If we can help a few kids break that cycle, they can be the professionals that you bring into the schools for the next wave. Think about how compelling that story is. It gives them an example. It gives them the confidence that it's possible, and if you can continue on that, you might just have a movement.