Why Not Make a Difference?

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Why Not Make a Difference?

“In the end…we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make – Lewis Carroll

There are close to 50,000 kids in Delaware who are living in poverty. Many have only a single parent, and almost all wonder when their next meal will be. Simply put, these kids have been thrust into an environment where they must struggle to survive. Not thrive… survive.
Educational access, and the development of skills such as reading, writing, math, etc. is lacking for our highest-need youth. The consequent achievement gap is precisely why something like the Summer Learning Collaborative is a need in our community.
Choosing to work with the SummerCollab this summer has been a truly eye-opening experience from start to finish… I took a chance on something that I truly believe in, I built lasting relationships with not only my students, but also my fellow visionaries at the SummerCollab, and I decided to utilize my skills in a way that would make a difference in someone’s life. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
November 8, 2015. The day I first found out about the SummerCollab, its mission, its goals. I distinctly remember my first foray onto the SummerCollab website, and being completely overwhelmed by the disheartening facts about the achievement gap that are peppered throughout the various tabs.
According to research done in the city of Wilmington, Delaware, low-income children lose up to 3 months of learning in the summer, as opposed to high-income children, who gain up to 2 months of learning throughout the summer months. More than half of the achievement gap between low and high income youth is a direct result of summer learning loss.
To me, that is simply unacceptable. Why should these kids not be given the same opportunities as everyone else? Why shouldn’t I be putting time and effort into ensuring a better future for these children?

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Throughout the summer, I interacted with kids who not only embraced me as one of their own, but were also among the most talented, loving, and curious children I had ever met. I still recall one of my favorite kindergarteners, Jaquell Staple, engaging with me in a, I kid you not, 30-minute conversation, using only the word “why.”
Besides building relationships with my campers, I graded numerous writing and math artifacts, and compiled data to determine which kids needed individualized attention, which kids required an enhanced curriculum, and which kids seemed to be doing just fine.
At the end of eight long weeks at camp, I was utterly exhausted. From prep work every morning to grading each afternoon to recording data each Friday, the workload was tremendous. But the reward was well worth the sweat and tears (literally).
From the onset of SummerCollab curriculum to the conclusion of SummerCollab curriculum, I saw firsthand the phenomenal growth of these kids. I saw the insatiable desire in these kids to become something more, to defy and even break the shackles that had been imposed upon them by this world – and to be a part of that was truly remarkable.
So, that is my story. But what is yours? So often we are told that we teenagers are the future of this world. That we have the power to make a difference… in the future. But why can’t we make a difference in the present as well. Why can’t we make a difference… right now? There is something bigger in this world than our own cushy bubble of friends and family. There are people out there right now who could use all the help that they can get. And so I encourage you, I encourage you all, to make a decision. A decision to stay put, or a decision to make a difference. The choice is yours.

“Be the change you wish to see in this world” – Mahatma Gandhi

More About Michael Chen:

I am a rising junior at Newark Charter High School. I enjoy reading books and spending time with my friends, but I also love helping others. This summer I worked as an Operations Specialist for Shortlidge Boys and Girls Club this summer, helping the Summer Collab with supply systems, artifact grading, and data collection.

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