Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
The words of Whitney Houston seem so simple, but bear so much truth this day and age. We, as adults, have become so selfishly consumed with illuminating our own egos and securing our own future’s that we have failed to ensure that the generations to come have a solid rock to build their futures upon as well.
We’ve failed our kids when it comes to protecting their right to a quality education. With all the political gridlock in Tallahassee and Washington, our babies are steadily on the losing end when it comes to funding for schools within socioeconomically challenged neighborhoods.
The ink hasn’t even dried on HB 7069, and the public has already expressed anger and disgust with Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to sign-off on such a controversial bill. The 278-page measure addresses everything from recess to standardized testing in schools. The education bill will also force Florida public schools to split almost 100 million local tax dollars between nearly 650 charter schools, many of which are for-profit.
I say that to say this: We can’t afford to sit here waiting for someone to save us. We must be willing save ourselves. The same goes for our youth. They can’t speak up for themselves, nor can they fight against the unjust educational system they are expected to learn in.
The students attending South Pinellas County schools deserve the same world-class education as their counterparts North County and across the state. That’s why our village must band together and put the pressure on our local elected officials to fund more apprenticeships, vocational & technical training programs. I recognize that every child won’t go to college, that’s why it’s important that we highlight every alternative career path out there.
Education is just a piece of the puzzle; we’ve also failed our children by not providing them with adequate access to quality food. What we consume, determines the type of lifestyle we live. No child should go to bed hungry, but it is estimated that 7,000 children in our community are chronically hungry, meaning they go extended periods of time without food.
There’s a long list of factors that contribute to hunger. One of which has to do with access to food. Free city-operated summer lunch programs for youth are in place to assist with alleviating the food shortage, but what good does that do when residents are living in food deserts with limited access to quality and affordable grocery stores?
Downtown is on a boom with two Publix markets within walking distance from one another, but what about the families living in Midtown, Lakewood Terrace and Coquina Key? Don’t we deserve more than just a Save-A-Lot? Why do we have to settle for the expired goods being sold to us at marked-up prices in local corner stores where our money is welcome, but we are not?
You can’t expect the Mayor to keep a retail tenant in Tangerine Plaza. Fact remains, any store that occupies that space will continue to fail until we begin to address the underlying issues: crime prevention, customer service training, and community purchasing power.
No one wants to shop at a store they don’t feel safe in and nobody wants to eat products they don’t feel comfortable buying. Let’s work together to make sure there are jobs in place that pay a sustainable living wage parents can feed their families on.
Urban farming is a new tool that is being used in communities of color across the nation to combat child poverty and offer support to families, including single-parent families. This practice of sustainable living improves community relations and it minimizes our dependence on processed foods.
If the City of St. Petersburg were to partner with the school board to establish urban agricultural farming as part of the curriculum in schools within South St. Pete, imagine the educational gains students would make both inside and outside of the classroom. They could take the knowledge they’ve acquired in school back home and share it with their families. Community gardens are a win-win for the entire neighborhood.
As a village, we’ve got to do a better job when it comes to looking out for our children’s futures. We’ve got to begin thinking outside of the box and developing a strategic plan that will benefit the greatest amount of people in the shortest amount of time. Time is short and tomorrow is not promised. So let’s be steadfast in our efforts to preserve a rich legacy for our children and grandchildren.