How To Use Spring Breaks To Expose Youth To Limitless Opportunities

These programs share career options on and off the court.

Black Girls Code
Photo Credit: Photo: Black Girls Code

| April 04 2019,

01:58 am

The Simone Biles of gymnastics. The Jackie Chan of film. The Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court. Finding successful and celebrated examples of people of color in diverse careers is like trying to find a Democrat not running for President in 2020. When no one has come before you and there’s no one to look up to, we get mixed results. Eminem on one hand. Catch Me Outside girl on the other.

The social circles we’re in can dictate our career success and where we go. Linked to Ryan Murphy -- end up on FX. Linked to Donald Trump -- end up in jail. Linked to Aunt Becky -- end up at USC, and jail.   

When you bring it down to the public school student level, the circles you’re in -- especially geographically -- can decide your academic trajectory.

In New York City, the highest-poverty schools get 12 percent less per student, on average, than the city’s wealthiest public schools. Why? Wealthy districts can tap into its property-tax base, and poor districts can’t. With the income support of their affluent neighbors, schools in New York City’s Upper West Side and Park Slope send the most students to specialized public high schools.

NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies had a 64% acceptance rate among students who took the SHSAT. Google is right across the street in Chelsea.

While kids in Harlem and the Bronx are fighting off gentrification, those just eight miles away in midtown Manhattan are fighting off tourists for access to Broadway performances, media conglomerates such as Time Warner Center and tech giants the likes of IBM.

As kids are dreaming about their futures, the lack of diversity faced by Black and Latino students in teacher representation, curriculum content and more is one of the first slaps in the face along the conveyor belt of bruises the education system delivers.

When it comes to dreams, Oprah is the queen of many things: media, Weight Watchers -- and vision boards! Seeing is believing- Jim Carey always knew he’d earn a $10 million check and live on Mulholland Drive. Awkwafina only dreamed to host SNL after waiting in line as a 10-year-old on the night Lucy Liu hosted in 2000 (knowing she wouldn’t even be allowed in!).   

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Let’s play a game of whos who word association to test who you envision. Who represents a tech empire? Who represents investment banking and Wall St success? Bill Gates. Jeff Bezos. Mark Zuckerberg. Elon Musk. Warren Buffet.

Now, who represents success in sports and entertainment? Lebron James. Serena Williams. Beyonce. Cardi B. Drake.

It appears the white man’s mind and intellect is revered while success for Black folks leads to sexualizing and commodifying the body for consumption (there’s a long, long history of it). So families of color need to take it upon themselves to ensure their kids are exposed to diverse career pathways outside of the narrow world they have access to.

Here are free family field trips to take your kids across various sectors to broaden kids’ horizons and understanding of what’s possible.  

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Among STEM employees, the Pew Research Center has found that poor education and less encouragement are the top reasons why there are so few Black Americans in STEM. Actively change this by making kids feel like they belong in tech spaces and that they deserve to have access to the devices and knowledge needed for success.

Apple has many free events in major cities including Coding Lab For Kids. Samsung’s flagship store in New York City, Samsung 837, hosts free events that offer hands-on experiences in virtual reality, photography and smart homes. Microsoft has Free DigiGirlz coding workshops.


Microsoft hosts free events for students in multiple locations

                                                                            Photo: Microsoft

Performing Arts

As education budget cuts risk rendering arts programs extinct in our schools, we’ve got to take it upon ourselves to immerse our kids in the arts. In Colorado, half of its school districts have switched to four-day weeks to save money!

Most major cities have production companies that offer free tickets. There’s Public Theater in New York City with their free Shakespeare in the Park; Free Street in Chicago with an after-school program that offers a stipend; and Everyman Theatre in Baltimore whose Teen Theatre includes dinner, artist meet-and-greet, dessert and discussion for $10.

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Public Office

The 2018 midterm elections changed the tide of representation for those in elected office. New Yorkers can tour the state’s courts and talk about Letitia James, the state’s first African American Attorney General. In San Francisco, take a tour of City Hall and discuss how London Breed became the first African-American woman to be elected the city’s mayor. Bostonians can schedule a visit to the district office of Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts' first black Congresswoman.


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