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One of these days, I’m going to go into the worst of the worsts neighborhoods armed with a chair and chalkboard and ask, “Who here wants to learn?”

I am going to go to where poverty and violence and misfortune run rampant and do my best to teach.

The plan is to keep going back and back and back, until someone’s life is changed.

It is here, in the trenches, where liquor stores and beauty supply stores outnumber grocery stores and coffee shops, that I want to sow my biggest seeds of HOPE.

Daily I come face-to-face with a generation of young people who have little value for their lives — and even less for their education. I truly believe that it is the responsibility of us, the educated few, to empower the uneducated masses, particularly young black and Latino youth.

But before we begin teaching our kids chemistry and calculus, we have to show them that education is worth their time and investment. They have to know that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and to carelessly throw away your future is a tragedy.

I’m not exactly sure when being smart became a bad move. I don’t know why the black or Latino kids who speak proper English get ridiculed. I don’t know why we, as a society, continue to celebrate the athlete who can’t read and ignore the student who can.

But I do know why the basketball court is more popular than the library in the inner-city. Kids know what they can achieve if they succeed at being a baller, but few understand what they can accomplish by becoming a scholar. We have to show them.

Somehow we have to teach our kids that education is gangsta and that college is cool — not corny. They must know that knowledge is a daring and a resistance mechanism designed to thwart anything set to destroy them.

To educate a young person is to empower a family, uplift a community, sustain a people and improve a generation. I pray that I won’t be the only one in the hood with a chair and chalkboard teaching lessons in H.O.P.E.

Until next time,

Live H.O.P.E. Give H.O.P.E.

Michelle Janaye
Assistant Director
The H.O.P.E. Scholarship