|Navigational Art and Directions By Colleen Yorke, © 2015.|
We all have come to crossroads in our lives, and suddenly we are asked to choose. We embark on a journey. The journey of our lives. We meet strangers. Some of them walk with us for a brief while, they leave us with keys to unlock new worlds. At the time we may view these as heavy and a burden to carry. It is not until we are a lot further down the road that we remember the keys and the people, who gave them to us. The path to education is like the road itself, loose, shaggy, full of redundancies and conflicting goals.
Last Sunday I ran the Los Angeles Marathon for a charity organization dedicated to give financially struggling students resources and the access to continued education. In Los Angeles County alone truancy rates have increased over 20 %, and in Pasadena the rates have been the highest. 66 percent of PUSD students were truant at least once in 2011-12. As a Pasadena resident and former PUSD student, I am surprised and concerned. School work and classes not only stimulate and broaden our horizons, they also connect us with peers, including some kindred spirits that become lifelong friends. Social interaction with others improves our communication skills, refines our etiquette and manners and brings us into contact with other cultural backgrounds and upbringings. Truant students miss critical instruction in key concepts, fall behind in school, and often are less likely to achieve academic successes. Academic deficits isolate “at risk” students from the broader school community (suspensions, low-rigor alternative courses, hopelessness of having no way to catch up and low self esteem).
Recent developments, including an introduced Assembly Bill, attempt to find solutions for the 'truancy crisis'. Organizers and sponsors hold races all across the country to raise an awareness for education. As my feet carried me through mile for mile towards the finish line, I reflected on my own public school education with intervals in Santa Cruz, Göttingen and Pasadena. My days started early, and homework frequently filled out the evenings. I enrolled in an arts and design academy, I played sports, I worked part-time at a television station. I continued on to UCLA, four whirlwind years and many, new worlds followed. The showing of a completed thesis film and packed suitcases waiting by the door: Next stop, Berlin. Educational opportunities stretch our comfort zones and allow us to grow. We are exposed to a multitude of views, and we are asked to formulate our own. Further down the road, now with a Masters, or two, a JD or a MD, we come across crossroads again, and we choose unmarked roads with no wear. Why are so many students truant? And if they are truant, what are they doing instead? Educational opportunities keep kids away from the streets and crime.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.