Let’s face the facts: We live in a changing world where the road to economic stability and success is closely tied to quality education. Quality education means providing students with the tools and knowledge to be able to make a difference and fulfill the needs within our society. This can occur immediately after high school, college or graduate or professional school.
Not everyone who is economically stable or successful has attended a top-ranked university, college or community college. Nor does every profession require our youth to take one of the aforementioned roads. But the Career Academies that were introduced recently provide students with the necessary tools to directly enter the workforce or continue their education after high school.
D.C. Council member David Catania has called funding for the plan “anemic” in comparison to the youth of the city who have dropped out or are unemployed, the Washington Post reported. He told the Post that, “if this city can find $150 million to build a soccer stadium, we can certainly find money to make a commensurate investment in our young people.”
Well, Mr. Catania, aren’t we investing in some of these students with this program? It may not be the equivalent of soccer stadium funding, but $2.8 million is at least a start. It’s funding that will be used to prepare students in three areas of demand in which the District needs workers—hospitality, engineering and information technology. It will in no way solve all the problems of the educational system, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
For this reason, I agree with Mayor Vincent Grey who supports the program and has stated, “Our goal is to be able to get people to work and reduce our unemployment levels over time.” A lot of talk is always had about the bad reputation of D.C. schools and how test scores don’t reflect the money poured into the system. However, when an innovative or new program is introduced some run for the hills screaming about why the program won’t work and how money could be spent more wisely.
Moreover, many residents of this city and outsiders complain that the youth of D.C. are inadequately prepared to work or pursue higher education. Programs such as the career academies help to resolve this issue and provide youth with opportunities for a great future. The programs help to fulfill desperately needed jobs within the city. And this provides an alternative career path for those students who feel that college is not the route they want to take immediately and gives them the skills necessary to enter into fields immediately following high school. Finally, it will allow those who want to continue their education to be able to do so with the skills necessary to have success in college and beyond.
There is no harm in providing students with a variety of options and the ability to take their economic stability and success into their own hands. Isn’t it better to have another option available to students who would otherwise drop out because they don’t feel that the school system is preparing them to enter the workforce or obtain higher education?
Instead of being quick to already doom the program as a waste of money or not enough to solve the problem, we need to give it a chance to see if it will indeed work. Let’s take all of that negative energy and put it into fixing other parts of the school system so it is effective as a whole and not just in parts. We owe that to the youth of this city.
Jerome Hunt, Ph.D., is a visiting assistant professor of political science at the University of the District of Columbia. His research focuses on ‘post-racial’ black leaders and the black LGBT community. The views expressed in this article are his own. Reach him at Jerome.firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @jeromehuntphd.