The Promise of Education: My Wish for DC Students!

DC Action is happy to welcome Tim Vance, our policy intern, for the summer! Read his blog about his committment to our mission and DC children!

Surveying the state of American politics today— the recent government shutdown and sequester, congressional gridlock, and elected officials that often seem more interested in scoring political points than addressing the challenges facing the country—can make it easy to feel a little jaded about the ability of government and public policy to make the country a more equitable and prosperous place. The one area that we cannot afford to lose a sense of urgency and consequence is education. The opportunity to achieve economic prosperity through hard work, regardless of your race, class, or background, is a central cornerstone of American society, but it is only possible if all children have access to an education that gives them the abilities they need to fulfill their potential in life.  

My work in the world of education began shortly after I finished my undergraduate degree. I first volunteered, and later came on as a staff member, at Higher Achievement, an after-school and summer academic program for middle school students in the greater Washington area. More than just a supervised study hall, Higher Achievement seeks to build and strengthen coalitions of support for its students that incorporate families, the school system, and members of the community. Many of the parents and guardians in the center where I worked were recent immigrants from North Africa or Central America. They were often eager to help their child in school, but they did not know how. A significant part of my job was maintaining and coordinating communication with my students’ teachers and guardians to develop academic achievement plans to make sure that we were all working together to support their academic and personal development.

For many of the students entering the program, the barriers to their academic success extend well beyond their schools’ walls and include generational poverty and a lack extracurricular enrichment and academic support at home. Working with these students, teachers, and families reinforced my understanding of how critical it is for schools to form meaningful partnerships with families and to have access to the resources necessary to give under-served students the opportunity to succeed.

I’m currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University where my work has focused on comprehensive educational services, especially during a child’s early years. Last spring, I had the privilege of working with DC Action for Children on a pilot study investigating the barriers to accessing high-quality early childhood education for the Latino community in Washington, DC. I am excited to be back at DC Action for August to continue working on this project, and to support their critical work advocating for the city’s youth from birth through graduation.    

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