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Why Voting MUST Matter to Parents, Young Adults, Family and Community

My name is Gwendolyn Samuel. First and foremost I am a parent in Connecticut that has two children in the public school system, elementary and middle school.

I am the Founder of the Meriden Kids Walk Safe - Safe Routes To school Initiative which promote initiatives that enable and encourage children to walk and bicycle to school; improve the safety of children walking and bicycling to school; and facilitate projects and activities that will encourage healthy and active lifestyles to reduce childhood obesity, reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution near schools.  I am also the Co-Founder and President of the State of Black CT Alliance which convenes a statewide network of stakeholders committed to creating a high quality of life for Connecticut’s Black and vulnerable community through accountability, policy research, capacity building, education, community services, and advocacy.
In March of 2010, in a national Parenting magazine contest, I was one of 51 moms across the country that were selected to represent their state at the inaugural Mom Congress on Education and Learning Conference at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., May 2nd through 4th of 2010.
On September 28, 2010, I was selected by the NBC Education Nation Summit to appear and discuss education reforms, as a CT Mom Congress parent panelist on the closing session of NBC’s  “Congressional hearings" of the Education Nation Summit..

I say all of this to state for the record, we, as ordinary citizens, are the change we are looking for. I am DONE waiting for a Superman/woman or a Knight in shining armor to come save the day and meaningfully support the educational and social needs of our children and vulnerable populations.  

I firmly know and believe that ordinary citizens, like me, have the personal and collective power to demand and build excellent education institutions thus nurturing and fostering strong family and community thus ensuring that our high graduates are technical or career college and life ready.  As ordinary citizens we have the collective power to VOTE for leaders that have the moral courage to do what is right for children and vulnerable populations during these tough economic times.  

I firmly know and believe, as ordinary citizens that we have the collective power, through informed and strategic action, to REMOVE those “status quo” elected officials and leadership who feel they are not to be held accountable for their fallible decisions regarding the needs of the people, their constituents.

As a parent, I was taught though various parent leadership trainings and lifelong learning processes that I should heed best practices for child development, “follow the money” when failing becomes an acceptable outcome and learn to interpret data.

As a result, I am questioning, in a big way, how Connecticut, with education having  the largest budget in our state of more than 7 billion dollars a year, is able to have the largest knowledge, skill and opportunity gap in the nation between low-income and non low income students better known as the achievement gap.   How is it that 4 out of 10 Black and Hispanic children, between 3rd through 8th grade, are at Goal on Connecticut’s CMT’s standardized reading and math test (Connecticut Master Test) but 8 out of 10 for Blacks and Hispanics going to juvenile detention or prison!  Yet, an analysis of the State of Connecticut using almost any indicator of socio-economic progress quickly reveals stark contradictions in the fortunes of its residents. Connecticut, one of the richest states in the nation, is also home to some of the nation’s poorest cities.   It is home to some of the most prestigious universities and schools in the nation, yet its academic achievement gap is among the highest in the nation, observable between rich and poor students, and between white students and students of color. The socio-economically disadvantaged in Connecticut’s cities tend to be people of color, trapped in schools that persistently fail to meet their need for a quality education.  These residents are also likely to be underemployed, or lacking in job skills that would provide a livable wage, consequently they tend be under-insured, or uninsured.

I strongly believe that these conditions can be changed and eliminated

I often question, if 3rd or 4th grade reading scores are an indicator for building jail cells, why do we cut literacy and effective academic and parent/family engagement programs and allow failing schools to thrive financially?  Parents, what about in your state, what questions do you have?

I must follow the money…so they say, so I did.  We average 41,000 per inmate vs. 14,000 per pupil 3 to 1 for penal, so the school to prison pipeline is in FULL affect.  
Therefore, I have one answer to my many questions, one question being, what is Connecticut’s value system?  Our value system places penal systems as more of an “economic stability” plan than excellent educational systems.   

In closing, I will say this, I will NOT waste my time and energy on blaming the “status quo” defined as an existing state of affairs.  But, what I will most definitely do, alongside thousands of other parents, family and community leaders, across the country, is to collectively VOTE for those leaders who understand the moral imperative of embracing education reforms that demand for and hold educational excellence as the standard for America’s schools and nothing else will be allowed to be acceptable!

Collectively we will VOTE for leaders who clearly understand that by supporting educational excellence reforms, we will strengthen and stabilize America’s economy…state by state, town by town, community by community, family by family.  

Parents, family members, neighbors, faith leaders, young adults, and community; WE must VOTE November 2nd for candidates that have OUR needs, OUR children and family needs, and the needs of OUR community as a priority during this tough economic recession and beyond.  

OUR quality of life WILL be determined by those officials elected into office, so please let us NOT waste our vote.  

Note: the President, also known as the Commander- in-Chief is a super important election of 2012… make your voice count, register to vote and VOTE.

The 2010 Governor races in your state are extremely important… make your voice count… VOTE.  

Your Local, State and Congressional elections are important… make your voice count… VOTE.   

Your local School Board elections are extremely important …make your voice count…VOTE

The civic engagement process of VOTING was created by the people, for the people, so let the people speak loud and clear on November 2nd 2010 and each election beyond today.

I look forward to working with each of you in making educational excellence the new habit of the 21st century.  FAILING can no longer be an option of school choice!

Parents, family and community, our children lives depend on the adult decisions we make today. Let us make collective voting another lifelong habit within ALL communities thus ensuring that each and every child has a right to a high quality education, that we must work tirelessly and effectively until neither race nor socio-economic status is a predictor of student success.  

Remember: Organized people = POWER


Gwendolyn Samuel

Founder Meriden Kids Walk Safe – a Safe Routes to School Initiative
Co Founder & President State of Black CT Alliance
2010 CT Mom Congress Delegate of Parenting Magazine
2010 NBC Education Nation Summit panelist