Today’s students in general, and African-American students in particular, simply need more motivation and engagement to prioritize and pursue academic excellence.
This is especially true during an era in which students are bombarded with messages, values, beliefs, behaviors and examples that compete with and distract from the standard of academic excellence…the dedicated pursuit toward academic excellence.
Our focus is on supporting and promoting the culture—the symbols, beliefs, attitudes and rules—that inspires academic ambition.
Recently, WE were truly inspired…by Deonte Bridges’ moving valedictorian speech at the Booker T. Washington High School graduation ceremony in Atlanta. At a school that is nearly 100% African-American, he is the first black male valedictorian in 10 years. In his moving speech, indeed a compelling performance, Deonte detailed the overwhelming obstacles he had to overcome in order to meet his goal: fighting the allure of drugs, being robbed at gunpoint, surviving his brother’s death and his mother’s cancer diagnosis and dealing with a steady barrage of negative stereotypes.
Still, in the end, Deonte credited his academic success to ” an ability to make rational decisions” and an expressed commitment to education. He detailed the very rules and behaviors that comprise the essence of academic ambition–staying up until wee hours of the morning to complete assignments, meeting required deadlines and competing in advanced placement (AP) courses.
Deonte was moved to tears in his address, as were we! And, we couldn’t help but wonder, who were the angels who informed Deonte’s culture…the symbols, beliefs, attitudes and rules that helped him to overcome obstacles and that established for him the connection between hard work, dedication and results!
Take a few minutes to experience Deonte’s moving speech for yourself. We hope it will inspire you as it did us. And, we hope you will join us in inspiring more African-American youth like Deonte to “rise”!