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Guest Editorial: Education: The Vision for Success in Norfolk

By Angelia Williams Graves
Vice Mayor of Norfolk, Va.

Many of us have parents or grandparents who either never saw the inside of a classroom or who had a very limited education. In my case, my dad pieced his education together through self-study and correspondence courses that led to his doctorate in divinity. My mom was the youngest of 15 and the FIRST to go to college in her family; her mother could barely read or write. My mother’s desire to take advantage of a high school & college education was fueled by her deep desire to NOT have to go back to “the country and work the farm.” She subsequently graduated from Elizabeth City State Teacher’s College (as it was known then). She wanted a better life.

My parents instilled in me, through their hard work, the importance of education. I believe, that no matter where your parents fall in this education spectrum, whether or not THEY could read or write, we all know our children’s success in life is directly tied to education. I am concerned that today’s society has somehow tricked us into believing that low SOL scores or accreditation status is a determinant of whether or not our kids are smart or if they are learning – THIS IS NOT TRUE! Even if a school is unaccredited, if a student attends class every day, does their homework and studies they will learn, graduate & can go on to college, into the military or vocational training and have the opportunity to become very successful adults.
While I believe accreditation is very important, as it ties desperately needed funding to our schools and serves as some measure of accountability between teachers and students, it is not a personal reflection on our students who work hard.

My vision for Norfolk includes good jobs, safe neighborhoods and companies falling over themselves to be here, has a common foundational thread – EDUCATION! While we ourselves may have achieved success in life due in no small part to our education, we HAVE GOT TO pass that value onto our children in this generation and the next. We say “the children are our future” but what kind of future do we have with uneducated children growing up to be uneducated adults?

I see a city where we have several sources of funds for our children’s educational needs; partnerships that give children exposure to things they only read in books and magazines, letting them know that there is a world out there that they can participate in, that they are welcome in and that they are valued in. I see a city where EVERY child gets a quality education and is equipped with the tools to go out into the world, make their own way and thrive with a bright and brilliant future. Education gives this opportunity, it gives hope to our children.

My vision starts with US; a society of people. As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents, mentors and leaders going “old school” and setting the standard that education is the way to a vibrant and successful life. We have given our kids a lot of “stuff” because they want it and because we are blessed to be able to give it to them. But we have failed to give them the tools to continue to obtain those things for themselves as adults.

If we are to be a vibrant community, a resilient community, where every person has an opportunity to thrive and have a good life, then we have to take the personal responsibility of ensuring our children go to Pre-K through graduating high school in order to take advantage of post high school educational opportunities. I want to see a city where children are learning and parents are stable and secure. I want to see a city where employers fight to come here because we value educating our residents.

Norfolk has the potential to become an educational hub. With plans and funding strategies in place, we are on the road to a new Career & Technical school to give every student the ability to obtain high paying technical jobs right out of high school. We have a new superintendent, an elected school board that is accountable to YOU, in place to move our schools forward and to ensure they are all accredited. I want to see a city where everyone who wants to succeed has the opportunity and resources to do so, whether they stay in Norfolk or life takes them someplace else.

Why is education so important to me? Education doesn’t guarantee success, but it gives our children the tools and resources they need to become successful. Without an education, the chances of success are dismal but with an education those chances increase exponentially. Public schools are free – we have to make our children go! Advanced education such as college, technical & career schools are not free, but we can help our students apply for available financial aid, grants and scholarships. We have to take the success of our lives and that of our children’s lives into our own hands and we have to do it together. Together, as a community who believes in its children and their future, we can ensure that ALL CHILDREN have the opportunity to have a bright and satisfying future. That’s my vision for Norfolk. Norfolk Vice Mayor Angelia Williams Graves is running for reelection in the city’s 7th Super Ward on May 3, 2016.

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