by Aiyshen Padilla and Llew Brown
Today was a good day. I witnessed an event at Bowie High School that reminded me of all the good that happens when we work together. I was reminded that although we don’t literally live in villages, we still need the support of the village community, especially for our young people.
My village is comprised of both rich and poor. Parents who can afford the best for their children and don’t need help, and parents who desperately need help so their children can grow up healthy with the opportunity to reach their full potential. A community of people who send their kids to private school, and a growing contingent of committed parents who are investing in their local public school. That is where I fall. I believe in public schools and the children who attend them. I am committed to helping change schools for the better.
As parents, we all want the best for our children, but so often we don’t know what is needed or how to get it done. So we came together. It was during a conversation after a Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) meeting this past February when the idea blossomed to create the 9th grade Grade Point Average (GPA) Challenge at Bowie High School. This initiative was a great opportunity to show how we can all come together as a village – parents, administrators, the school board and local businesses.
The Challenge: The concept was simple: Challenge the 9th graders at Bowie High School to improve their GPA by 10% between the 2nd and 3rd quarters (the third quarter ended March 24, 2017). Make it open to all 9th graders, not just the usual suspects — the high achievers. Invite them to a celebration event at the end of the challenge. Provide certificates of achievement to the students that met the goal and enter them into a raffle for a chance to win gift cards from local establishments. One goal of the program was to inspire other busy parents to get involved in a highly visible way with the school and their student, during future initiatives. Another was to demonstrate a true collaboration across stakeholders in our community.
The Village: Several parents joined forces to implement the challenge. Collaborating mostly through conference calls and email, extra tutoring was arranged, a menu for the party was developed, and strategies for securing additional support were executed. For example, businesses and a school board representative provided much-needed funds for supplies and food. Additional families donated to the cause. School administrators promoted the GPA challenge by including mention of the challenge during the school’s morning announcements. Administrators also crunched the data and created the space for the celebration to occur.
The Outcome: Over 100 students signed up for the challenge using an online form created by the PTSO. Among the students who enrolled, more than 30 either improved their GPA by 10% or greater, or maintained a 4.0 GPA or higher for two quarters in a row! Administrators took a broader look at the data and observed that across all 9th grade students at Bowie High, over 120 students improved their GPA by 10% or greater and 70 students earned a 4.0 GPA in the third quarter.
Today, I was surrounded by the faces of achievement at Bowie High. More than 200 students were ultimately invited to the end-of-challenge celebration. School Board Member Raaheela Ahmed and Principal Robynne Prince congratulated the students. A handful of parents cheered their students on. For some, it was the first time that they have been celebrated since elementary school. For others, it was the first time this year. The smiles. The laughter. The sense of pride and achievement filled the room.
Parenting is challenging and rewarding. Most of us worry if we’re doing it right. Most of us worry that we’re doing it wrong. We may disagree about the best way to improve public schools, but I am sure we can agree on this: We must all rise to the occasion when asked. Because at the end of the day, we know that we are responsible for how our students are prepared. My hope is that we understand that we must each do our part, that we are part of a village, each helping to lift the other up. Our children deserve this. We should model this.
The GPA Challenge was a good start.