Dr. Nyeisha DeWitt was recently part of a drive that provided over 1000 pairs of shoes, hygiene kits, and school organization kits, 250 bus passes, and 1000 backpacks to students. This was all part of the Back to School Rally, a gathering designed to provide encouragement, support, and supplies to students and their families, as well as to continue her work connected to decreasing truancy.
A bit more difficult to quantify than shoes and backpacks?
The preparation and support meant help kids flourish in the academic world. So many students today struggle in school; they feel socially isolated, academically “stuck”, or simply incapable of changing ingrained patterns that may have existed for years (or generations).
Dr. DeWitt believes that she can help.
Her own background includes a difficult relationship with the school, and she’s able to deeply relate to students and parents who find themselves struggling through their experience. She understands that truancy and lack of supplies aren’t about kids being “bad” – it’s often about generational poverty, lack of resources, and a need for greater support.
This initiative for Oakland students is about more than just dropping off supplies or serving pizza. Her goal is decreasing truancy and turning around low graduation rates, an achievement that would change lives and futures.
Based on her own experiences, as well as feedback from her community, Dr DeWitt is pursuing multiple initiatives. Some, like the Back to School rally, are hands-on, community-centred events. Others are created in boardrooms and offices, reforms that are garnering support because they are needed.
Our students deserve to have every single available advantage.
They deserve to feel safe and supported in their schools. They deserve to be well-fed, and able to focus on classroom content, not hunger pains and empty stomachs. They deserve to be seen and heard, to be treated with respect, to be reminded that their lives matter.
Dr. DeWitt believes that every child deserves the chance to make something of themselves.
One way she’s working to make that happen is by being active in the community, going so far as to join in walks, knock on doors, and have real conversations with families. She wants to make a difference in a way that makes sense, responding to needs that locals have (instead of assuming she knows the best ways). One thing she does know for sure, however, is that decreasing truancy is absolutely essential.
Her work is vitally important, and every single child whose life has been touched is proof that it truly matters.
You can read more about her work here.