Adan Gonzalez, who was senior class president last year at DISD’s Adamson High School, can speak from experience about the importance of getting students involved in school.
Published: 23 February 2012 07:43 PM
During my term last year as DISD Teen School Board president, I noticed a saddening but widespread issue: Students do not have any real expectations. Too many of them view school as a place where teachers do not care about them and administrators distance themselves.
I’m lucky; my parents have provided that support. My dream is to finish their American dream. And I am not alone — all students have dreams. But how much does the Dallas Independent School District help fulfill them?
As a child, I had no choice but to face the same difficulties many other students can relate to: I watched my parents worry when they could not pay rent. Immigration officers searched for my undocumented uncle. Child Protective Services collected neighbors’ children. Kids I knew left school to sell drugs, join gangs.
Just like thousands of other kids, I stayed in school. I quickly learned that I could watch as fear pushed me back, or I could allow it to pull me forward. I decided on the latter.
DISD’s stakeholders have to understand that what happens to students at home comes into the classroom. And that means understanding exactly what students face outside of the classroom. That’s not to say students should not be held accountable for their actions. However, addressing students’ home life must be a factor in building our education system back up. We need to see students as people, too.
Urban districts need to create an environment that students feel comfortable in, one that provides exposure to the world outside North Texas and gives them a voice in the system. (I was sad to realize that many students in Oak Cliff, where I grew up, have never even crossed the Trinity River.)
DISD needs to provide opportunities for students to discover their passions and strengths, not just focus on learning to pass a test. I don’t mean parties at school or field trips every week; I mean creating an environment where faculty members show they care for students, regardless of their academic work. For example, my principal at W.H. Adamson High School, Evangelina Kircher, sat with students and asked about our day. When teachers and administrators invest their time in students, it encourages students to invest more time, too.
I believe that raising, instead of lowering, expectations for students helps encourage them to achieve more, reach for college and realize that success is possible. Programs aimed at building student leaders benefit the district. Not only do they help foster a connection between students and faculty, but they also allow students to grow as individuals.
I graduated from DISD in May, and now attend Georgetown University, but I started my education in an English as a Second Language program at James Bowie Elementary. I did not make straight A’s and received my share of discipline referrals. But in my freshman year of high school, a program opened new doors for me: Education is Freedom. I received moral support and undivided attention from advisers and board members, making it clear they believed in me. These types of programs really do make a difference, and DISD should continue to build on them.
DISD’s next superintendent must be innovative and willing to work with students — because the decisions he or she makes will have a huge impact on the futures of so many. These students cannot simply be viewed by district decision-makers through a prism of theories and statistics, nickels and dimes.
They cannot afford to wait. As a 19-year-old product of a DISD education, I speak from experience.
Adán González, a student at Georgetown University, graduated from DISD’s W.H. Adamson High School in 2011.