Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
The recent debacle which exposed cheating in schools in Atlanta was a low point for my city, but also a blessing in disguise. Now more than ever people are angry, anxious, and inspired to make a real difference in public education. It has been recognized that great teachers alone will not get us to where we need to be—there must be a culture of achievement in communities, and outside of school.
Having identified this need, it is imperative that Atlantans—and citizens across the nation—must begin to ask themselves what a culture of education and achievement in communities look like. As the founder and organizer of Neighborhood Mathematica, I am proud to make a contribution to building Atlanta’s education culture with the implementation of a supplemental math education program for students in underrepresented areas. However, one math competition—which is also a new tradition in Atlanta—is far from where we need to be.
People from all walks of life must be involved to create this new culture in which expectations are high in the homes, neighborhoods, and schools. Students need our constant support and constant challenge. I can’t wait for the day when it is the norm for students in the Pittsburg, Summerhill, Adamsville, and Ben Hill to take on and master the rigorous challenge that a mathematics-related career has to offer. I can’t wait for the day when it is the norm for students from Pittman Park and Grove Park to bring home A’s and B’s after having been challenged with high standards.
Neighborhood Mathematica Fall 2011 is posed to reach upwards of 500 students in Atlanta and offer them 40 additional hours of math instruction time in a semester. With the recent grant we received from Operation Hope and 100 Urban Entrepreneurs, we are ready to serve the underserved and uplift students with tutoring and mentorship. Our volunteers are mostly talented students from local colleges and universities like Georgia Tech and Spelman College. There is no reason for a child between grades 1 and 8 to not have access to supplemental education on a regular basis. If we’re going to win the future of America, we must make it easier for anyone to receive quality education. We also must begin to close achievement gaps. In 2010 only 12% of African-American boys were proficient in grade-level math concepts, compared to 44% of their Caucasian counterparts. This is simply unacceptable.
In Atlanta, we are getting ready to paint the town numerical, and no one will escape. Please visit us at www.neighborhoodmathematica.com.
Kwanza Fisher is the Founder of the Center for Education Culture.