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Encourage young to keep moving

It is a new beginning. Keep going until you cross the finish line.

I once told the story about my sister who had ran a race and oddly stopped shy of crossing the finish line despite having come so close to winning. Well, due in part to the spirit of the Olympic Games and as the new school year starts for many young people in the region, including my own nephew who is starting kindergarten this term, I am reminded of the essence of that story. We have to encourage our young people to keep moving toward the finish line despite the obstacles they will face.

In addition to encouraging our young people to stay the course, I think we must expect them to do so. We must expect to them do well. Young people doing well is connected to the expectations we have of them because when they know that parents and/or caregivers and teachers expect their best, they are more likely to work toward their best.

The new school year offers with it a new opportunity to set a new standard for the young people in our lives. In order for them to do well, the task cannot rest solely on the educators in the schools. It will take a collective and collaborative effort on the part of parents and/or caregivers and teachers.

Young people have an amazing capacity for overcoming odds and rising to the occasion. Those who believe in themselves have an advantage, but this belief in self is not separate from others believing in them as well. Just listen to the stories of the world’s Olympic champions. Teachers have to want their students to “win,” just like the coaches of those athletes.

Parents have to want their children to win in the classroom and in life and help prepare them for those arenas. Students, like athletes, cannot put their best forward without the self-determination, focus and belief in self that they learn to have as a result of those adults around them who expect them to do well. It is an interconnected process.

For our young people to win, we have to be willing to make sacrifices of time, energy, and sometimes financial resources. We have to be invested in our young people’s future by showing up in the present. Show up. Be present. Let your young person know that you are there as an active participant in their lives as students. This is so critical because it is the difference between the young person who falls, slips, stumbles, and keeps going and the young person who gives up.

It is the difference between the young person who is the underdog with odds stacked against him but rising to the forefront and the young person who doesn’t believe he can rise to the forefront. I believe that difference is what makes a difference.

Today, make or renew your commitment to setting a new standard in a young person’s life.

Regardless of race, socio-economic or family status, young people can make it to the finish line. These obstacles do not have to impede their journeys to academic and personal success.

Tell a young person to be encouraged.

Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at ln_dunn@yahoo.com.