Upon entering Vanderbilt, I knew that even though there may be discrepancies between myself and the other students, YES Prep Public Schools had really prepared me for the four years to come. As a sophomore this year, I am excited to demonstrate not only the confidence, but the ability within myself to succeed in a strong academic environment. YES nurtured me as a student by always setting up a positive environment and supporting me to gain the skills I needed to build strong relationships.
YES Schools provided motivation to their students each and every day. Throughout our classrooms, there were two enormous banners that not only reminded us of why we were in school on that particular day, but more importantly, why we were in school for the long run. Those two banners read, “Whatever it Takes,” as well as, “100% Everyday.” The banners set up a culture that was about giving our all to our education and doing whatever it takes to push ourselves to achieve our most wishful goal of attending not just any four-year institution but, hopefully, the one of our choice.
As a student in college and as a future educator, I agree with Ted Kolderie’s conclusion that one of the underlying foundations for providing good education is for educators to change their attitude from one of “Make ’em” to one of “Motivate ’em.” One of the reasons I believe I not only successfully graduated but am now in a prestigious university is because of the underlying goal of each teacher at YES to constantly motivate the students. The teachers never took the tone of trying to convince us to do our work for the sake of completing it. Instead, if necessary, they would take the time to explain to us that we were in school to learn and that, in the end, we would see the fruit of our labor.
Because we were exposed to constant motivation by everyone at YES—even by our own peers—naturally, we were able to successfully graduate and attend good schools. An interesting observation is that after being at YES—even after a short period of time—everybody, including our parents and ourselves, eventually knew that we were capable of doing great things if only we set our minds to accomplishing them by working hard and by having a positive attitude.
Kolderie’s paper highlights one of the main reasons why education in America is still struggling: we fear the unknown and we fear changing a system that has been in place for a long time and that has “fairly” worked out. However, innovation must occur. Just as our society has changed, so have the ways in which we learn and what we should be learning. Although I was blessed with having a rigorous, nurturing learning environment that effectively prepared me, some students aren’t as lucky. This, ultimately, needs to change.