Opportunities for All, by UEA Vice President Tom Nedreberg
Recently I attended my high school reunion. It was great catching up with old friends about what has been happening in our lives. At dinner I was lucky to sit by Doug, an African American friend, who I enjoyed scouting, church and sports together with all through high school. He told me how much he loved my family and particularly my mother for her cooking, singing and accepting him in our home while we hung out together. Another friend at the table then said how the two of them had hung out too and Doug said, yea, but your mother never let me inside your home. It was quiet at our table for a few uncomfortable seconds.
Maybe today we don’t have the same issues with race but our society is changing constantly. Minorities accounted for just 2 percent of Utah’s population in 1960. By 2010, the U.S. census has that figure at 20 percent. The percentage of minorities is even higher in our schools. The Salt Lake City School District is now a minority majority school district, with others soon to follow.
I think sometimes we take our opportunities and privileges for granted. I’m a third generation college graduate and teacher. All my children have either graduated from college or are currently enrolled. College graduation, let alone high school graduation, was an expectation. Looking at my students though, particularly those minority students, their families may have the hope of a better life but not a path. Teachers are in a tremendous position to raise the expectations of their students, and in the process, change not only their students but many generations to come.
Since its inception, the U.S. has been a melting pot. Nowhere is that more apparent than in our public schools, where we mix, mingle and share with people different than ourselves. School is where we learn about the ideals promised in the Constitution, beginning with “We the people…” School is where teachers open doors of opportunity for all students. School is where students hopefully learn that anything is possible in this great country.
My hope is that we as teachers look at all our students, including the various minority students, and inspire them to look beyond the achievements of their parents to reach their full potential. The UEA and NEA are committed to providing the best public schools for ALL students, be they minority, low income, special needs or facing any other disadvantage. When we provide opportunities for the least among us we provide opportunities for all.
If you are interested in how the UEA works to include minorities please visit our Human and Civil Rights page.
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