Trying to spend my time wisely at the NSTA conference, I schedule a couple of school visits with folks in the Kansas City area. The first was Seton High, a hybrid public, private school, at 23rd and Benton, and the second one was St. Teresa's Academy, located a 55th and Brookside. Both of the these visits were an incredible experience with incredibly passionate teachers in both locations, but two schools less than five miles apart couldn't be any different.
Seton High is a new urban high school that has 80 students who come looking for hope everyday. Students take the city bus, sometimes 45 minutes to reach a place that could end the cycle of poverty for their family. I entered the building through the door designated for the health clinic. The energy of this facility run by the Seton Center, a Catholic community organization, was evident. Though students had left for the day, it was clear that this was a place of learning driven by a passion to serve. Not unlike the concept of the Harlem Children's Zone, Seton provides students with access to dental care, a food pantry, and a thrift store. The opportunity to succeed is growing at Seton High. Even with all of this hope, there was a need for resources: computers, books, Internet access, and the little things that can pave the road to success on those mornings when life has dealt another setback. I feel the need to help, contribute, and be a part of this solution. Leaving the school left me with a feeling of turning my back on justice, equality, and my role in alleviating poverty.
The next five miles of my drive were images of poverty, both sad and true. Poverty is the same, but unique to its location, and I realized the unique nature of Kansas City poverty as I crossed over The Paseo on 55th. I was drawing closer to St. Teresa's, and suddenly things changed, no longer were the boards on the windows, they were on the fences, painted and groomed. I arrived on campus, historic, quiet, peaceful, and filled with signs that said "assisting the poor...saint teresa's academy since 1866." Really?
I saved judgment as I slid into the first academic building. It was clear that the girls were comfortable, and there was excellent learning taking place. I had a chance to talk to a number of students in the school. They reminded me of my friends in high school, happy and unburdened by life. There were certainly warts below the surface, but smiles were easy to find, the joy of childhood still circled the campus. I love tradition, but I really love tradition that builds excellence. I truly hope that these girls will take their genetic success and family opportunity and look East a few blocks to examine their role in the greater community.
The mission of the sisters of these organizations are the same in that they are looking to serve the community from basic needs to building values of awareness. I can't help but wish that Saint Teresa's would send some resources in the way of technology, books, and basic school supplies down the road. I'm never sure the best way to address poverty is to throw money at it, but there is a basic level of need that I would love to see addressed.
Is it possible that two random friends, connected through me could grow something that would benefit both schools? I hope so. I know that it would be easier to drive home and forget about this idea, just let it be because I have plenty to do at home, but this experience has shifted my soul for the moment.