How To Support Students Impacted By The
Making the Team
In eighth grade, I tried out for the basketball team. I was horrible, but I wanted the new Grant Hill’s, and in my adolescent brain, it was the only way to get them from my parents.
I also wanted to have the same number as my favorite basketball player growing up, BJ Armstrong. He was playing for the Chicago Bulls and rocking number 10 on his jersey. I wanted the same number and position, point guard.
You’re probably not surprised when I tell you I made the B-team. After all, my ambition to play had nothing to do with the game itself. The following year, I decided to be the team’s manager. Although I did not move forward as a player, I was allowed the opportunity to explore my talents.
Being on the team helped me figure out what I wanted to partake in as it related to my extracurricular activities. As a Black girl growing up in a small town lacking diversity, I didn’t realize that discovering my gifts was rare.
Growing up, I wasn’t aware that most kids who looked like me didn’t come from a middle-class two-parent home. Sixty miles up the road, on the south and west side of Chicago, there were hundreds of kids who weren’t afforded the same opportunities as me. They didn’t have parents who decided to move out of the city and settle in the small town they went to college in. All because they wanted to give their children a different type of life.
I was naive about socioeconomic status plays a role in the level of support you receive when discovering your gifts. And although I was a minority student, I had parents that advocated for my well-being and made room for me to cultivate my gifts.
The reality of the opportunity gap didn’t come hitting me in the face until I began my journey of sharing the messages in Go for Yours. While speaking to a group of students on the south side of Chicago, I met this bright young lady. She was on her school’s swimming team. Unlike me, she wasn’t on the B-team. She was the star swimmer.
As the students stood in amazement about the stories in Go for Yours, I asked a question I often ask when speaking to the youth. What’s stopping you from following your dreams? I was expecting to hear responses like procrastination and not enough time. When the young lady on the swim team told me, “lack of money,” I stood in amazement.
She explained that she was the star swimmer on her team but still behind because she couldn’t compete at the same level as her peers without having a certain level of training. She wanted to take a class that would prepare her to compete in the Olympics, but she couldn’t afford it.
The truth is, even the smartest kid in a poverty-stricken neighborhood can only make it so far.
This student is just one of the many young people who are talented but don’t get the chance to discover their full potential and talents. The opportunity gap shows a socioeconomic status of unequal support. That’s common among young adults today, especially America’s urban youth.
Opportunity Gap By Definition
The Schott Foundation for Public Education, U.S. Department of Education revealed that the Opportunity Gap is the greatest inequality crisis facing America’s urban youth.
It’s a factor that determines students’ opportunities, life, and association differences rather than having the chance of equal opportunity to achieve goals that lead to success.
When an opportunity gap is present, there are unequal resources available for young people living in and attending schools in low-income neighborhoods.
How Do We Support Students Impacted By Opportunity Gap?
Let’s take a trip back to your childhood. What types of opportunities did you have? Were you in sports or extracurricular activities? Did you go on trips and excursions outside of your neighborhood? The opportunities you were provided with as a youth play a role in where you are today.
Some people use their lack of opportunity as a motivation to succeed, but most don’t. For every person who “made it” out of their neighborhood, a cohort of people were left behind. Their zip code prevented them from exploring gifts and talents that would lead to a better life outside their neighborhoods.
If you are one of the lucky ones awarded with opportunities that led to where you are now, imagine how devastating it would have been if this were not the case. There are thousands of youth impacted by this gap.
When it comes to closing the opportunity gap, we as a community have the responsibility to ensure our young people get equal opportunities. Here are six ways the Go for Yours Foundation is addressing the opportunity gap.
The Dream Experience. The Go for Yours Foundation has a youth fellowship program called the Dream Experience that provides workshops and enrichment activities focusing on leadership development, civic engagement, and entrepreneurship. During this time, we teach our students the importance of self-advocacy and provide them with tools to overcome any barriers when an opportunity gap is present.
Financial Resources. Lack of money plays a massive role in whether or not a young person pursues their passion. Our first recipient of the Go for Yours Scholarship Fund, Thelonious Stokes, almost missed his chance at attending the Florence Academy of Art in Italy. If it weren’t for his mother and the community who rallied together to raise enough money to send him to school, he wouldn’t be the first African American to attend the Florence Academy in Italy.
Travel. The Go for Yours Dream Experience recruits students representing a variety of disadvantaged communities across the United States. For some, this is their first time on a plane. Taking them out of their neighborhoods and exposing them to the city of Los Angeles, California, allows them to explore opportunities outside of their zip code and have something to look forward to.
Mentorship. Exposing our youth to successful people who look like them and come from similar backgrounds motivates them to succeed. During our programs and services, students meet adult professionals that serve as mentors during and after the conclusion of the Dream Experience.
Peer Interactions. Our participants meet and congregate with like-minded individuals their age. Together, they serve as a support system to keep going after their dreams no matter what. These once-in-a-lifetime relationships would not have happened if it weren’t for the Dream Experience.
Go for Yours University. We provide an on-demand 8-week leadership development program for students between 6-12th grade in school districts nationwide. This program is for schools in need of a program to help their students grow academically, personally, and professionally to achieve their goals.
As a foundation, we will continue to create awareness and help the impacted students discover themselves, pursue their dreams, and live fulfilling lives.
Our goal is to raise enough money to continue providing programs and services for disadvantaged youth who model a commitment to reaching their goals. With the help of people in our community, we can make this a reality.