The Glover Report: 1st Day of School: “Back to the Salt Mines”
By Doni M. Glover, www.bmorenews.com
(BALTIMORE - August 27, 2012) – Today is the first day of school for Monarch Academy Public Charter School at its new location in Historic West Baltimore at the corner of Fremont and Laurens streets. Formerly located in northeast Baltimore, the new location – according to school officials – offers more space. This building was the former home of William Pinderhughes Elementary School, a school that once was open to serve students in this 21217 area.
And it is also the first day of school for other youngsters and the not-so-young as well – in Baltimore and across the country. From pre-k to Ph.D. programs across America, this is the “back-to-school” season. And with it ought come a prayer for all those seeking to advance utilizing one of the greatest resources in the world: education.
From day one, this column’s banner has summed it up best: Our only option is the book and the ballot. Personally, I have always been fond of school. Somewhere around this time each year, my late father would say, “Alright, son! It’s back to the salt mines.”
Of course, I had no clue at first hearing this. I was a little boy. However, over the years – I came to understand exactly what it meant. It was time for me to do my job.
You see, everybody has a job to do: everybody in my parents’ house, that is. And if you are too young to work, then your job is going to school and doing an excellent job. And, if you don’t work, you don’t eat.
And I love to eat.
So, my prayer is that American students everywhere embrace this sacred opportunity to continue one’s education. This is, as always, particularly directed at African Americans. I should add that this article, in part, was inspired by Sista Tracy who asked for some advice for her daughter going off to college for the very first time.
When I was in Tanzania, I had the opportunity to teach a young Tanzanian some math. It was only a brief encounter, however, I’ll never forget how hungry this child was to learn. Over the years, I would come to understand just why this young man and so many other people in less developed countries than the United States have such a powerful desire for education: because education can empower.
As a matter of fact, I’ll let you all in on a little secret. When I finally got my act together to return to college for my first degree, I remember a young lady who would serve as my inspiration. Her name is Patricia Njenga, and she is from Kenya. She was an A-student who was also responsible for taking care of her two younger sisters – one of whom attended Coppin with us. What will forever standout in my mind about Ms. Njenga was that she carried 22 to 24 credits on average.
The typical American student takes 12 to 18 credits. Additionally, Ms. Njenga was in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, a full-scholarship honors program at some institutions of higher learning, including Coppin. The program is burdensome, however, students emerge tougher than nails when it comes to doing research and presenting one’s findings on a cornucopia of topics. It is, by far, an academic regimen strictly for the studious.
To say the least, the McNair program is like the Special Forces in the military: the Navy Seals, if you will, of education. The McNair Program at Coppin, instituted by Dr. T. J. Bryant, is of the highest caliber when it comes to the pursuit of academic excellence because they work a student in ways not thought of - all in an attempt to get students to do one thing: think!
Every teacher out there loves to see that light bulb turn on in a student's mind. It is absolutely beautiful!
Anyway, I watched Ms. Njenga for a full year handle her obligations with a smile. From that point on, I joined the McNair Program, too. And I thank God for the rewards.
I learned that until a student is pushed to their limits, they will never know what they can accomplish. Just like the little boy in Tanzania: some people have a deep thirst for knowledge because they know it means power. Often, we have the opportunity and do not take advantage of it - and to steal a snipit from the President - and instead "grumble." We do owe ourselves a good education. Nothing should be more important in a child's life. And, if there is an impediment, let's get that child the help he or she needs - preferable without any medication. Thank you!
Let me also note: For any African American student out there, it is imperative to have a historical perspective when it comes to education. In short, you were never wanted in the classroom because an educated mind is more likely to think. And, as well all know, blacks were dragged here to work – not go to college.
Every African American should know that slaves stole away in the deep of night with a candle in an effort to learn to read. Every African American should know that Frederick Douglass’ appetite to learn was so strong that he tricked a white child in Baltimore’s Fells Point into teaching him how to read while playing games. Every African American should know that Mary McLeod Bethune had a lifelong mission of educating young blacks … and she did it well. They even named Bethune-Cookman College, in part, after her.
Every African American should have a strong understanding that education is one’s passport to the future, and that without an education, your ass is in serious trouble. The only thing that will be open freely is a prison door. Therefore, do everything in your power to seize your education – to want it more than you want anything in this world.
Education is your ticket to freedom, because there are traps out here for you. There are forces out here waiting for you to slip – and then your life is changed forever. So, to my college students in particular – who are away for the very first time:
*Pick your friends wisely
*Nobody really has a lot of money in college; therefore, be smart with your money. ‘A fool and his or her money soon depart.’
*Focus on getting good grades. How? Write down excellent notes – with dates – and assignments. Put differently, be organized. Sounds simple, and it is. However, many students don’t do it.
*Model one’s self after those with positive traits; hang with those who are going places; this is demonstrated by behavior. Do you want to be with the in-crowd at the party, or the successful students in the study groups and in the library?
*Limit your time on Social Media; stay focused.
*Find out about scholarships and programs that help finance education.
*Minimize student loans, if at all possible.
*Minimize credit card usage; college students are ‘prime time’ for credit card companies.
*Always stay in touch with home; get acclimated, but never forget where you come from.
*Read. My father used to say, “It is not going to get into your head through osmosis.” You have to read.
*Always challenge yourself to work harder – always remembering how sacred an opportunity it is to even go to college.
I’m sure there is a litany of things I forgot to mention. Nonetheless, I’ll leave you with this. While I only got to spend three semesters at Morehouse College, I can tell you that they were the greatest two years of my life – including a trimester at Georgia State University.
You see, I never knew I was of relatively moderate income until I got to Morehouse. That’s where I saw that while I might have stood-out somewhat in Baltimore – Atlanta University in 1983 was a whole other level. Compared to a lot of students there, I was poor. But to me, it didn’t matter. I was strictly there for education, contacts, and employment.
My point is that my mother was making $3.35 per hour at the time. When I got to Morehouse, I was determined to make my momma’s investment in me worth every dime. I thought about the sacrifices she made for me to be there – even if just for a moment – so that I could just get a taste – so that I could be a part, even if just for a second - of the Morehouse experience. She wanted the best for me.
And so, I worked hard to get good grades because I didn’t want to let her down. And I didn’t want to let myself down. And so, add one thing to the previous tips on going to college: extra-curricular activities. Don’t just go to college for your major. Get involved in the band, or the choir, or something. Play a sport. Join the debate team. Go Greek! Do something to make those sacred and blessed years memorable.
If you’re going to delay adulthood (a little joke about going to college), then at least make the best of it. Travel to another country for a semester. Learn a foreign language. Investigate your dreams. Learn golf. Search your soul. Find your purpose.
In conclusion, may God bless all of the students. Congrats for making the best decision of your life: to get an education! Remember, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste!”