Thursday, June 20, 2013

Column: Wise Up, Rise Up!

By Angela Wilson
Okemos Legislative Committee Chair

Meridian Township Trustee

Wise Up and Rise Up!

That was the mantra at the Save our Public Schools Rally on the Capitol lawn on June 19. Being at the rally re-energized me! I saw that Okemos parents are not alone in our concern to give our kids the quality education they need to be able to tackle whatever comes their way in this fast changing, global economy that is our reality and their future. We are not the only ones fighting for our kids’ and their future.

It made me proud as a parent and public education advocate to hear students speak to the hundreds of people and policy makers at the rally with confidence and even defiance. Their message, “This is our education and we do not want it corporatized, privatized or underfunded."

Young adults that use technology daily for learning and socializing saying they don’t want a computer replacing their teacher. We heard stories from kids facing abuse, hunger, neglect, and responsibilities that many adults cannot handle and the only thing that gets them through is the creative writing class that gives them support, human contact, love and an outlet to express their fears, hopes, dreams and nightmares in the only safe environment they have—the creative writing classroom. We heard a young man with Tourette Syndrome share his story of how high school band and playing the flute helps him calm his symptoms and gives him the outlet and tools he needs to be successful the rest of his day in school and in his day-to-day life. We heard from a sophomore who is his school’s Student Council President tell us his classmates are now active advocates for education.

What did I take away from the rally? Public Education is the great equalizer. Those from poor and middleclass backgrounds—it is the great equalizer. Public Education allows our children to grow, adapt, find out who they are and the world they belong to. Public education helps kids struggling with abuse and neglect. Public education gives children facing lifelong challenges such as Tourette’s the tools and outlets to be all they can be. Public education is creating our future leaders.

What is most inspiring is that it was our kids sending this message. They are fighting every day for their future and I know I heard them loud and clear. Now we need to support them and fight for their future too. We need to “Wise Up” about the policies that are being proposed and passed in the Michigan legislature and how they are destroying our children’s future. And just as importantly we need to “Rise Up” and continue to spread the word and advocate, advocate, advocate for our kids’ education. We need to make sure that the people, tools and resources they need to learn and grow into productive adults are there now and will be there in the future. We need to join our kids and fight for their future.

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