By Candace Henry
Fifty years ago a man shared his vision with the world for justice toward mankind. Today marks the landmark anniversary of the March on Washington, when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. He wasn’t the first to stand up for equality, dignity and unity. His beliefs were not foreign to the oppressed of his time.
Yet, it was his impassioned sermon and his vision for a world where the walls of inequality no longer hold back individual achievement that still resonates with us today. His desire for human justice was placed higher than capitol greed or racial prejudice. It was a vision for the human race to advance.
Today, we celebrate Dr. King’s vision through Empower American Children to enable American youth to live their dreams based on individual talents and strengths. In the effort to keep the dream alive, every young person must own their belief and that belief must resonate in the words, “I am somebody” and “I believe I am somebody special.” Fifty years later the dream must continue.
By providing access to resources and the knowledge to use those resources effectively, we are breaking down the barriers that prevent American youth from reaching their dreams. Our mission is grounded on the following beliefs:
· We believe that motivation can overcome circumstance.
· We believe that people are motivated when they can imagine a better life.
· We believe that dedication to education is a roadmap to future success.
· We believe that equipping middle and high school students with life principles can improve graduation rates and better prepare them for success in life.
· We believe students are empowered to learn when they discover their unique talents, potential and ability to contribute.
Dr. King also reminded us that that we must cooperate in order to thrive. The promise for the future of our youth can only be kept when we work together. As President Obama shared today during a commemoration address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:
"That's where courage comes from — when we turn not from each other, or on each other, but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone. That's where courage comes from."
In 2008 I stepped in as a volunteer with a desire to learn more about the complexities of teen pregnancy with local community leaders. My feet landed in a West Dallas High School were the acronym “L.G.P. meant Let’s Get Pregnant.” It was an amazing three years working with students and encouraging them to use their imaginations.
Together we worked through moments of blank stares until we both realized the unlimited possibilities of trust. Through encouragement and exposure to different points of view, we built on new ideas. There is a deep desire in young people to learn how to help him or herself. When information is presented in ways that engage them to think, these kids are on fire.
This book documents my journey and the lives of people that touched my soul. I’ve learned from kids who inspired me with their eagerness to learn. By using a listening ear we started on a level playing field. My wish was and is, to address their needs and help them use the resources available to them to shape their dreams into reality. Working together with coaches, teachers and students I witnessed success, possibilities and a need for change.
When we know that cycles of poverty are due to social isolation and communication barriers that give birth to continuous poverty then we must learn a new language. We must try a new way. Our team went to the school to learn about the dangers of teen pregnancy. My outcome learned, was the need to bring role-play, and exposure to education in the classroom.
Real freedom is to think freely using constructive information that moves a person toward their desired outcome. Our values in this country are based on this type of freedom. There are many people who hunger for the freedom to think, they want to learn.
To understand, I had to learn by living and thinking it day by day through the lives of the young people that I met.
This is their story.
Contributions from book sales support programs for Empower American Children.