My name is LeDonna Griffin and I am the mother of Darryl York III. Darryl began his educational journey in a Montesorri school setting. He attended the Montessori school for two hours a day at two years old. From as early as two years old he was a strong reader and a deep thinker; I knew that he was capable of more than what would be offered to him in the traditional setting.
As someone who had worked in the same district as an educator and administrator for 28 years, I knew that this system would not be academically stimulating for my son. When the time came for him to start Kindergarten I had no other choice as a single mom than to enroll him in the traditional school system. So, I apprehensively enrolled my son in the Omaha Public School setting in Nebraska from Kindergarten to the fifth grade.
I made sure that none of my kids attended the schools for which they were originally zoned; The neighborhood schools were historically low-ranking in academics. Instead, I enrolled them in a different public school that prided itself on its academic program. Unfortunately, the lack of academic challenge and rigor was evident. I asked the school on multiple occasions to test my son for the gifted program. The staff was happy that I was advocating for my son, but said that there was not really a need to test him. After five to six months they finally tested him and found that he was indeed gifted in “math reasonableness.”
Despite my son’s abilities, the school communicated to me that they would not be servicing him because,”we have other smart children here as well.”
At that time, I was morally and ethically forced to figure out an alternative, so I withdrew Darryl the very next day. I did not know exactly what I was going to do. I thought about homeschooling Darryl and really tried to find other options for my son.
I ended up finding Jesuit Academy, an all-male school comprised of a 100% African American student body. This school really helped to build up his self-esteem and focused on building upon his strengths. Jesuit Academy had a new robotics club at the time and one of Darryl’s teachers took notice of his capabilities in that area and tried to feed into that strength. Darryl joined that robotics club and I believe that contributed to his decision to work in computer science in college. Darryl attended Jesuit Academy from fifth to eighth grade and Creighton Prep from ninth to twelfth grade on an academic scholarship.
Darryl is currently attending Carleton College on almost a full-ride academic scholarship. Carelton is a private college, out-of-state, and is on average $77,100 without aid. Had I not made some of those decisions when it came to where he attended school, I know that would not be the case today. My son was fortunate enough to be academically gifted, but the schools he was zoned for would not even work with him. Without a high GPA or sponsors, my son would have never attended these schools, much less been prepared for college. It was great for me to figure out a better situation for my child, but then that option wasn’t open to everybody else.
We haven’t won until we’ve all won!
The neighborhood school that was closest to Darryl’s home was and still is missing the mark with academic and social support to students. Some students are only attending their district school because of lack of transportation, income, parent work/school schedule, or more concerning a district school choice plan.
Collectively we all have to continue to advocate regardless of our role or title. Whether we’re the teacher, parent, child, grandmother, aunt, or uncle, we must advocate for the needs of our children. Additionally, we have to ensure that there are other options when something’s not working for your child.