Momentum 500 Hopes to Drive Student Success
Based on ACT scores, the state of Tennessee considers just 7 percent of graduating Shelby County Schools students ready for college. Additionally, the Memphis child poverty rate is 43% and the city also has the highest rate of opportunity youth (children ages 16-24 who are not in school or working) in the country.
To truly improve our education system, achievement rates and outcomes for students, parents must have a seat at the table and be involved in the ongoing movement to help more children succeed in school and beyond.
Stand for Children member and Team Captain, Bernice Martin, recognizes the importance of supporting student success and works alongside other parents to maximize individual and collective impact for the benefit of students in Memphis schools.
A retired grandmother of five, Mrs. Martin joined Stand for Children in September 2015 and became a leader within the organization earlier this year. She volunteers her time as a team captain, training others parents on how to amplify their voices for greater influence and rallying them to advocate for effective solutions to address education challenges that many students in Memphis currently face. She also runs a girls ministry at her church and serves as a mentor for young women.
Mrs. Martin recently shared reflections on why she joined Stand and her experiences over the past two years.
Mrs. Martin with her grandchildren
WHY DID YOU JOIN STAND?
My best friend ran for School Board so I was already somewhat involved in education prior to joining Stand, but I became more involved because I noticed a lot of changes occurring within our school system. I’m passionate about children and their future, and I liked Stand’s mission to advocate for all and not just some. Making sure my grandchildren get a high quality education is one of my top priorities. I advocate not only for them, but for all children being affected by education changes taking place.
With my management background, I also felt like I had a unique set of skills to offer to that cause. So many parents don’t have the skills and training to effectively advocate. And often they don’t have time to follow what’s happening in our legislature- they are busy enough with work and trying to get their kids to school on time every day.
So with Stand, it is like parents now have an information hub to stay on top of what’s happening in the schools and in the political arena that may impact their children, and a place where they can learn how to get involved.
WHY SHOULD OTHER PARENTS JOIN STAND AND MOMENTUM 500?
We are building an army to fight for our students and we need more people to volunteer and who are willing to get in the ring with us. Stand offers classes to teach parents how to advocate - how to make a difference – and also gives opportunities for parents to learn soft skills to speak on behalf of their child.
When I joined I honestly was hesitant because after retiring, I didn’t want it to feel like a job. But I learned that advocating is sometimes just about showing up to a meeting or event - even if you aren’t the one speaking on behalf of children – or it could be just your presence gives other parents and children the encouragement they need to know someone is in their corner.
WHY IS MORE PARENT INVOLVEMENT NEEDED IN SCHOOLS NOW?
Now is the time. There is a lot happening. A lot of changes are being made (to school systems, education policy, standards) and we don’t know what the outcomes will be or what else may come down the pipeline. So we need to be ready. We need to have our voices heard and considered in decision-making that affects students and schools. We are voters. The right people aren’t always in right positions to do what’s best and with Momentum 500, we can have an army in position to influence them and hold them accountable; or be ready to move them and vote them out if needed.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PARENTS WHO MAY BE HESTIANT ABOUT GETTING INVOLVED?
What is holding you back? In Stand, there are opportunities for all to advocate and we meet you where you are. Get in where you fit in because we are on a quest to make change!
Everyone may not want to speak out or be a team captain, or meet with legislators, but education advocacy starts with you just making a commitment to support children and their best interests.
Momentum 500 is an initiative led by Stand for Children to form a coalition of parents in Tennessee who share a common goal to improve education quality and outcomes. The Momentum 500 Coalition works alongside parents, school leaders and legislators to enhance academic achievement, school performance, and influence education policy decisions that affect students in Tennessee.