9.27.2009

Together We Can...Make A Difference


Wow. Some days you just have to stop and really think about your unique purpose in life. I'm not one of those people who reads a million books about always striving to achieve your best, but I recently spent the last 2 1/2 days participating in Focus Louisville, an opportunity presented to me by Metro Councilwoman Dr. Judy Green (District One) and for which I am eternally grateful for the life lesson.


Focus Louisville is part of Leadership Louisville, an organization dedicated to Making Connections here in the Bluegrass. Our class was invited to tour downtown hot spots like the Louisville Science Center and the Frazier Museum. Metro Councilman, and historian, Tom Owen, provided us with a walking tour of the downtown area and a bus tour of downtown neighborhoods. On day two, we started at JA Biz Town (Junior Achievement) and visited public schools (some went to Atkinson, some to Noe and some to Central) and then visited social service agencies. Our workshops ended at the Home of the Innocents, where after a passionate plea for public involvement by Arcadia Community Center Board Member Greg Belzley, we all left feeling a bit, what can I do for this community.


Here's what I know. We are all connected. If we don't step up for the children in our schools, so that they have the absolute best in educational opportunities, we will lose them by the 4th grade. Sure, they may be physically in school, but mentally they will have checked out. If they have checked out, then they will not be prepared to be productive adult members of our community. So all the people who were at Focus representing UPS, BB&T, Chase, U of L, etc. will not have engaged, excited, or experienced employees to draw from. They will have to continue to recruit from outside communities. If we don't provide services for those families impacted by homelessness, neglect, abuse, etc. then we will permit patterns to keep repeating and the requests for funding from Metro United Way will never end because there will never be an end and although the mission of the Center for Women and Families is amazing and it's facility is incredible, I genuinely wish there was zero need for a shelter to protect families from abuse. If we don't step in and help our children while at school understand that bullying in any form is absolutely unacceptable, then we will have to keep these facilities open. We must step in and make sure that our children are going to schools in safe neighborhoods, were there is civic pride and a strong community connection. Our children are in these buildings at least 6 hours a day (or more) and should not have to look out of classroom windows and see abandoned and neglected homes being used as waste dumps. It is demoralizing and a health hazard and our city should be ashamed of this situation and we need to do something about it immediately. No more excuses.


We are blessed here in the Bluegrass. Many of our public schools have dedicated, hardworking PTAs and PTSAs who go above and beyond for the children at their schools. But we still have schools where the PTA is struggling to find board members, let alone volunteers. Where they are fortunate to raise a small amount of money to promote even one program. We must step up and help those PTAs that are reaching out for assistance. We need to mentor, we need to engage, we need to invite all to our planning sessions for a program, and then invite to a program. We need to stop passing judgment on those PTAs that are struggling and offer a hand of help.


What did I learn in these past few days. That I can give, and then some. That I can help other organizations dedicated to serving the needs of children and families in this community, even if it is something as simple as writing a blog or providing a link to a website, or promoting an event in a newsletter. We have children who are homeless. We have children who are going to bed at night hungry. How can they concentrate on homework? How can they concentrate on being part of a community? If you have a jacket your child has outgrown, donate it to a child to needs a coat. If you have enough food in your pantry, take some canned goods to school and start a school wide food drive. Why is everything our PTAs do connected with an incentive? Why don't kids just turn in box tops without the promise of a prize for the child who turns in the most? When did becoming a member of the PTA mean you had to promise a spirit shirt? I am on call to my PTAs 24/7. But no one calls 24/7, because for so many of our PTA leaders, the moment the school day ends their job is done. My job is never done. It won't be until I know that every child in our district has a place to sleep, food on their table, an adult in their lives that encourages them to do more.


Did I need Focus Louisville to tell me all this? No, but it sure served as a reminder that my mission is more than just making sure bylaws are in order and a budget is balanced. It is about making sure that all the children in JCPS have the opportunity to be part of the community conversation. We cannot dismiss schools because of zip codes or test scores. We have got to focus on all the children in Louisville, all the success stories, all the triumphs. Every PTA leader deserves the absolute best in our support, so they, in turn, can support their board, who can then support the teachers and staff, who can then support the children, who then go home and their parents are excited about the possibilities in their children's education...


We are all connected. Where is your piece of the puzzle. Without it, the puzzle will remain incomplete and perhaps shelved. Don't be the missing piece. I am thankful to this group at Focus Louisville who have put their piece into the puzzle and to Staci Marshall for getting the puzzle of the shelf. Together We Can...Make A Difference.

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