Impact is an inside job.
In the non-profit and education worlds, there is increasing attention on measuring the success of our efforts in data as proof of impact. Serve 100 kids in 99% Free-and-Reduced-Lunch neighborhoods, and the equation that you are making an impact in their lives is undeniable. Data is important, as is an understanding of the breadth of a program.
When any action is taken, a pebble is dropped into the water, and we can see the outside ripples stretch out to the edges of the pond. Even just once matters, but when we work together and have others plunk their stones in the same spot, we can create a tidal wave of impact.
However, it is in the depths of the individual experience where the impact is most profound.
A good friend of mine introduced me to Julie Marie Carrier, the author of an empowering book for teen girls, BeYOUtiful. Julie is a beautiful, generous and powerful person, who was once a shy preteen who didn’t feel fabulous, future-oriented, or fortunate. In her book, she tells the story of how her life was changed listening to a single motivational speaker at a school assembly. He didn’t look like her, sound like her, or come from the same place, but his experience and his message transcended all barriers and touched her heart. That “pebble” hit its mark in her heart that day.
And now, with every book she sells, girl she coaches, and speech she gives, she adds her own pebbles to the pond to create even greater impact.
Statistics don’t tell that story.
The metrics that matter the most are the metrics of the heart.
Stats also don’t tell the story of Monument Academy in Washington, D.C. This public charter boarding school serves students whose parents are primarily incarcerated or homeless. The dedication of Head of School and CEO, Dr. Jeffrey Grant and Principal Dr. Ashley DeCruise, to serving their students with love as they navigate difficult waters is pure inspiration. Drs. Grant & Cruise demonstrate that to make true impact, you have to go deep and lead with love.
I visited their school with the amazing Give Something Back foundation to help capture a few video interviews. The foundation is launching another cohort of students they will mentor from middle school through a grant-funded college experience. They not only give the dollars, but also give their heart to making real impact.
When I asked an 11-year-old, arts-loving girl what her favorite part of Monument Academy was, I expected to hear all about art class. Instead, she said, “Y’know what I really, really like best? When I come home to my room, I have someone to talk to. Someone who cares about my day. I have a . . . sister.” The beautiful smile across her face and the light in her eye told me that, despite the dire challenges she had faced, at Monument Academy, she feels love. And that love gives her strength, security, and a foundation to build her life. For me, that builds hope. No numerical equation can capture that paradigm shift, but the impact is undeniable.
On the other side of the equation, the negative impact of the trauma that so many of our children in this country face is the subject of the intense book, What Happened to You? by Oprah and Dr. Bruce D. Perry.
It details the immense impact childhood trauma has on a child’s future ability to live a happy, healthy, and productive life. Each experience leaves a mark and teaches a lesson about life. Just once, and it may be like a forgotten dirt road in the woods, but when that road is traveled repeatedly, it becomes a highway on their map of life. Navigating around and through the pain creates other unique pathways, and they arrive at school with a distinct understanding of what the world is and how they are to function in it. This understanding colors everything they do, and it is specific to every child.
We put these children together at the earliest ages and wonder why reaching them and teaching them en masse is so difficult. We find our own ways as educators and service providers through, around, and over the differences, but doubling-down on individualized, trauma-informed, equity-minded education has never been more necessary.
However, our teachers and administrators are done. Having maintained the front in the pandemic and cultural battles for almost two years, they are wondering if it is worth it anymore. They wonder if the oasis they create for their students to learn and be loved is enough. Every pebble of love, compassion and understanding helps, but when the demands are endless and the role thankless, educators wonder why they should keep going. More and more of them are leaving the profession, but our world needs them more than ever.
Inspiration, love, compassion, and support don’t just impact children; they impact adults. And right now, our educators need more of this from all of us. Think of the roadways of trauma that have been forged in our educators’ experiences from the past two years, and perhaps we can all help build a bridge back to courtesy, respect, and love?
Building Hope is launching an effort to recognize, support, and honor the charter schools, leaders, and volunteers who are out there carving a path to a better future one school at a time. The Building Hope IMPACT Awards will provide grants to support schools that excel in student empowerment, community impact, and educational innovation. We will also host a Summit for these amazing charter school leaders to come together in camaraderie and purpose to deep dive into the work. We will also honor a charter school volunteer with the Shellie-Ann Braswell Shine Brighter Award to expand the impact of her legacy. As a dedicated community and charter school leader, she always led with love and inspired others to do the same.
Our goal is to create a tidal wave of ripples through the educational landscape by shining a light on the deep impact of the work of these charter school leaders, to thank them, and to let them know that it is still worth it.
The measure of what we do in the charter school world is a metric of the heart.
It’s in a student’s smile, a friend’s hug, a family’s pride, and a teacher’s joy at reaching the unreachable one student at a time.
That is light. That is love. That is impact.
Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects. ~ Dalai Lama