Set Up For Failure or Set Up For Success?

Do you remember those fourth grade social studies projects?  Our children had to write a research paper, write a summary abstract about their project, and then create a display board.  As parents, we would help our kid’s research via the Internet on our home computer, looking for information and pictures for their display boards.  Our kids would hand write their report, but invariably, we, the parents, were the one’s who typed it up.  Later on, we would go to Walmart to buy a display board, construction paper and glue sticks.  We would then show our kids how to create block letters that are all the same size, spacing and stay on a level line for their display board. Those were fun family projects that often created fond memories.

What if you are an under resourced fourth grader who lives in the hood?  For this project, you would have no computer, no scissors, no glue sticks, no display board and no adult to help you.  How would that child feel about the fourth grade social studies project?

A few weeks ago, “David” started attending New Hope’s after school program.  Almost right away, he showed us his most recent report card: 2 – F’s, 2 – D’s, 1 – C and a B.  We asked him, “What can we do to help you?  How can we best help you with your school work?”  He replied, “Buy me a poster board.”  “Buy you a poster board?! How is that going to help your grades?”  Then he said he had a science poster project due the very next day, but his family had not bought him a poster board.  We bought him a poster board that afternoon and he worked on it all night. He turned in his project the next day and earned a “B”.

“David’s” science project reminded us about those famous fourth grade social studies projects.  The next day at tutoring, we asked the kids if they had a big social studies project they were supposed to be working on.  They did and most of them were already late on turning in their abstracts.  Even though their projects were due in a matter of days, the kids had no pictures, no display boards and very little research material.  Most importantly, they had no adults to help them.  At the end of that day of tutoring, one of our volunteers observed, “These kids are being set up for failure.”  For the next few days, New Hope was busy buying display boards and glue sticks, cutting out construction paper, editing abstracts, printing out pictures and Wikipedia articles off the Internet.

After helping “Randy” cut out some pictures and mount them on construction paper at his kitchen table with three of his brothers looking on, he told a New Hope volunteer; “Thank you for helping me.  If I had to do this all by myself, it would have been a disaster.”

At some point in our lives, we have all needed a little outside help.  At New Hope, we are doing all we can to set up the kids in Azalea Park for success.  These kids can succeed and they want to succeed.  All they need is a little encouragement and some glue sticks.