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I’m sure everyone has heard “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” at least once in their lifetime. Whether they agree, or not, is a different matter, but I think we can all agree on the fact that food is important. We need food for our brains and bodies to properly function throughout the day. We need food that’s high in nutrients and vitamins, the sufficient amount. And honestly, we all prefer good tasting food, right? All that being said, you would expect for places like schools to meet these criteria right? Or at least some. Well, you’re in for a real treat.
For as long as I can remember I’ve hated school lunches. If my mom didn’t pack me a lunch for that day, I would be left pouting with a rumbling stomach. I've never really been the picky type but something about those school lunches always kind of grossed me out.
As I grew up and progressed through middle school, I noticed I wasn’t the only one. Dozens of people would skip the line for lunch, just to go and buy something from the vending machine until one day...tragedy hit. We received the news that Michelle Obama created a new public health campaign. With this campaign, a child nutrition reauthorization bill was passed that shut down school vending machines all around the country. Her aim was to reduce childhood obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle in children, which is pretty noble, but it didn’t do too well in action. Kids were now being forced to pick a fruit or vegetable, that they didn’t even want, to go with each tray of mystery food. The mystery food didn’t even appear to be nutritious in any way, shape, or form--a lot of times it was grilled cheese in a bag, or maybe fried chicken. It always looked either too dry, or too wet. There was either not enough seasoning, or way too much. Not enough color, or a mix of unappealing colors that portrayed vomit. And don’t even ask me about if the food was ever expired--cause then I’d have to tell you it was. Often. I can assure you that at least half of it was wasted and thrown out every day. Now, I’m not being ungrateful, I understand that any food is better than no food, but if officials see that kids aren’t responding well to their meal plans, why can’t they just ask students what they’d’ enjoy? Why are kids being left hungry, or to eat junk food throughout the day? That doesn’t seem to encourage healthy eating at all.
Hello everyone, it’s me, Wally again. Some of you may know me from my last blog “Why Funding Matters.” As I stated before, even though charter schools are publicly funded and experience many of the same issues that schools in the Detroit Public School District face, in many instances, it's much harder to hold them accountable to the students, families, and communities they serve.
That’s mostly because of how far away the board, management companies, and other leaders of the school feel. They aren’t accessible to us, and we only really get responses when we make a big fuss (and the responses are never good). Honestly, I’m not even sure if I know HOW to hold my school officials accountable. The traditional district, Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCD) has lots of ways to do so. Students have access to emails, numbers, hotlines, etc. to reach their board and superintendent. But at my school, we don’t know who the board members are because we have no way to talk to them. And even if we do actually get to talk to our school leaders, that doesn’t mean they’ll address any of our concerns. Sometimes, we bring ideas to our superintendent and she doesn’t even write them down--because she knows no one can hold her accountable to them!
My first day of high school I ate lunch in the bathroom—or at least I tried to. I walked into the bathroom, sat on the sink, and attempted to eat my cheese sticks while I wondered why I couldn’t just be a regular kid. Girls walked in and out, frowning at me and laughing with their friends. I was embarrassed, but I knew that this embarrassment was much better than what awaited me in the intimidating lunchroom.
Recently, I’ve started to realize how different my community is from other people’s.
Have you ever noticed how poor communities of color are portrayed in movies and shows? It is always much worse than how affluent, white neighborhoods are represented. The visual contrasts are vast, and the message is clear-- poor communities of color are different and don’t deserve the same things.These symbolic messages almost always impact our reality, which creates obvious divide between these communities.
The crisp clean floor sparkles with each step my feet make. As I walk through the corridors I can’t help but stare in awe. To my right is a sleek and shiny cafeteria, with fixed round tables and an open space. Looking to my left, my eyes cross in amazement at the state of the art library, jam packed with novels and study areas. I peak out back, through the sturdy gymnasium doors, to find a football field sitting in a bed of emerald vegetation.
Strolling through this alternate educational dimension, reality finally sets in-- I’m visiting a school only 15 minutes away from my own. Immediately, I’m pulled back to the reality of my school. The dread of having to sit on broken desks, in a class not of my choosing. The inadequacy of my school’s “multipurpose” room; a small designated area serving as a crammed gymnasium, lunchroom, and auditorium. The storage closet library my school provides isn’t efficient enough for the 732 students it serves.
Hello everyone, I’m Wally. For most of my school life I’ve been in a district that can’t even afford a proper lunchroom.
You may think that sounds strange, but for me, it’s reality. I never questioned the lack of resources available to me--I thought it was normal.
Here’s a list of a few regular occurrences in my school I pegged as normal:
Using one small room as a gymnasium, lunchroom, and auditorium
Not having a music class
Only being able to use instruments that my teacher could afford to buy us
Not having access to any transportation
Using a small closet for a library
Reading 10-year-old books in that closet
Using broken desks, chairs, and ripped books
Check out the first vlog by Naja Nile from the 482Youth group of 482Forward "Why I Organize" about student organizers. 482Forward is a citywide education organizing network in Detroit. "We are neighborhood organizations, parents, and youth committed to ensuring that all Detroit children have access to an excellent education, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status. Together, we are building power to make systemic change and win educational justice for our communities.
We're looking forward to more blogs and vlogs from 482Forward in the weeks to come!
Check out the first vlog by Naja Nile from the 482Youth group of 482Forward "Why I Organize" about student organizers.
482Forward is a citywide education organizing network in Detroit. "We are neighborhood organizations, parents, and youth committed to ensuring that all Detroit children have access to an excellent education, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status. Together, we are building power to make systemic change and win educational justice for our communities.
If you’ve ever attended a public school, I doubt
you’d call it perfect. I’m Naja,and I’m a product of Detroit’s public school system. I know firsthand what it’s like to be in a class of 45, with 40 desks to sit at, 30 textbooks (often decades old), and a seemingly permanent substitute teacher. I know what it’s like to open a math book to do homework, only to have the page I need ripped out. I know how frustrating it is to call a friend for clarity on material, only to realize they’re having the same problem, and it isn’t either of our faults. I know how difficult it is to learn science in a classroom full of students wearing coats and hats because the school can’t afford to fix the heating. I know how it feels for your school to permanently close without warning, to then be forced to travel an hour to a new school, sitting three to a seat on a hot school bus every day. Like I said, public schools aren’t perfect, and Detroit’s system is no different.