A friend of mine recently forwarded me an inspirational article about a set of 9 year-old twins, who live in London and are about to enter high school. The siblings, a boy and a girl, are the youngest students to ever enter high school in Britain. What makes this story so inspiring is the fact that these kids are black. And apparently their intelligence is no fluke, because their two older sisters are just as smart. In fact, they entered college at equally impressive ages of 13 and 11.
But why did I have to hear about this story by virtual word of mouth. Why was there no coverage on the local news stations or on one of the national morning talk shows, like the Today Show or Good Morning America? Couldn’t my girl Oprah have at least spared a little air time to send the twins a shout out?
Our kids desperately need to hear these types of stories. They need to know that as a people we are just as intelligent and capable of academic success as any other group of people. Let’s face it, they are constantly bombarded with negative images of people, who resemble them, committing crimes, cheating on their wives, and walking out on their families. No wonder many of our children feel so discouraged.
If you want a child to succeed, you have to cast a vision of success. Speaking from personal experience, I would have never thought about going to college and pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering, if a 4th graded teacher had not planted that seed in my head. She noticed that I had an affinity for math and casually remarked that I should become an engineer like her husband. Of course at the time, I thought engineers drove trains. But because someone believed in my abilities, I was motivated to find out more about the field and I eventually graduated with a degree and obtained a job in the Oil and Gas industry. And now I am considered a subject matter expert in my field.
Had this teacher simply suggested I become a math teacher or bookkeeper (both very admirable careers), I might not have reached my full potential. Basically, my point is we should not limit our kids’ dreams. If I had continued to live with my mother, who recently retired from the United States Postal Service, I probably would have followed in her footsteps, because working at the Post Office was considered the epitome of success in my old neighbor.
At the age of 12, I went to live with my college educated aunt. So truth be told, I would have likely ended up in college anyway. However, she grew up in an era (and an area) when black women only really had two professional career options, namely teaching and nursing. She didn’t know anything about engineering and would have preferred that I stuck with one of the “safer” choices.
This is why I think it’s imperative that we plant seeds of success in our kid’s heads. I tell my daughter, who can quickly compute monetary figures in her head, that she would make an excellent CPA, CFO or CEO. Even if she doesn’t want to pursue one of these careers, I’m setting the tone for what I believe she is capable of and I’m not afraid to set the bar high.
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