Welcome to The Lucky Ones!! My name is Wil Redmond, and I’m a 2011 Mississippi Delta Corps Member. DELTA!! Sorry. We’ve just gone through induction and the regional pride is really high, but for good reason. Reasons which I will address in later posts. As for now, I just wanted to say hello and explain why I’ve titled this blog “The Lucky Ones”.
I grew up in a community with a lower socioeconomic status in Miami, Florida. The educational background of my mother mirrors that of my community and while education was very high on my priority list as a kid, I had no family members who had reached levels of success in education. I was truly charting new territory for all of us. Luckily for me, I had teachers who recognized my “gifts” and pushed me to excel in elementary, middle, and high school. As a kid, one of the things that I was somewhat obsessed with was understanding what made me different then the people in my community who were not achieving similar academic success. While calling most of these people my friends would be an overstatement (as a nerd, you get beat up a lot in the earlier years), I was disturbed by the gaps between us because, to me, there was absolutely nothing special about me. We’d all gone to the same classes in elementary, and began to split up a bit in middle school, but on a fundamental level, me doing 5 more homework sets than them should not have translated into the large gap that existed between us all. Additionally, I was always labeled one of the “good kids” while my classmates had ongoing relationships with school administrators and “rap sheets” that were extensive. Looking back on those experiences with a little more education, I realize that we were all being tracked very differently. I was placed in classes where my teachers would accept nothing but the best from me. My classmates, on the other hand, were being tracked into classes where if they simply behaved, the their teachers would be happy enough to give them a passing mark. Often, though, many of these teachers gave the students passing marks to get them out of their classes.
As I’ve gotten older and put more thought into what has set me apart from my classmates in elementary, middle, and high school, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been one of the lucky ones, hence the title. I was lucky to be placed in classes where teachers held high expectations. I was lucky to be placed in classes where resources were directed in order to benefit the few who could actually achieve something. I was lucky to be unrecognizable by the administration of my respective schools. Simply put, I was lucky to receive the opportunities and advantages that I have received.
Needless to say, while the “system” has allowed me a tremendous amount of exposure and opportunities I never dreamed of as a kid, I can not help but think, what If I wasn’t one of the lucky ones? What if early on, I had been placed in the same boat as my friends? While many of them have achieved success in various industries, the going hasn’t been easy. For many of those who were unable to achieve success, poverty, incarceration, and death became their destiny. What upsets me most, and prompted me to join this national movement that is Teach For America, is that for my classmates, their fate was sealed well before they could do anything to change it. They were left helpless and subject to an incredibly flawed system rife with injustice. Had I scored a couple less points on a test in the first-grade, or not showed signs of proficiency in reading at an early age, I would not have the access to resources that I have now. The worst part is that I wouldn’t have been given the resources to attempt to “catch up” to my peers. Instead, I would have been tracked into lower classes and who knows where I would be in life today?
So my mission, my goal, the fire that burns inside of me as I embark on this Teach For America journey is to make sure that there are no more “Lucky ones”. Instead, I believe wholeheartedly in the mission of Teach For America which is that, “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” So here, I will post my insights, reflections, thoughts, and struggles as I do the work of eradicating educations inequity. Join me as I work to make sure that all students can become “The Lucky Ones”.