By Dr. Akil Ross
The African proverb, It takes a village to raise a child, is often used to reiterate how vital the community is to the successful raising of a child. I have heard this proverb hundreds of times but I never thought about who makes up the village. In her children’s book, It Takes a Village, Jane Cowen-Fletcher shares the story of a girl’s journey to the market with her younger brother. When she gets to the market, she gets distracted and loses sight of her brother. She looks for him but is unsuccessful in locating him. In a panic, she calls his name, but the boy does not appear. Finally, the girl asks one of the market shopkeepers if she has seen the boy. The shopkeeper informs the girl that not only has she seen the boy, but everyone in the market has as well. The girl is able to find her brother because when she lost sight of the boy, there was always someone else keeping track of him. At the end of the story, the girl returns home and shares her fear of losing her little brother to her mother. The mother replies, “Your brother wasn’t alone today. We don’t raise our children by ourselves. It takes a village to raise a child.”
The success of a child is largely dependent on the village surrounding the child. Our school district serves 17,286 children, and we are committed to providing each of them with a village to support their academic, social, and emotional growth and development. This is a challenging task, but we are not meant to face the challenges of life alone. We use the village concept to provide a safe, secure, and nurturing environment for all students. The symbol of this mission work is the D5 Whole Child Continuum Umbrella. This umbrella represents the key components of the village that provide protection and support for our students.
In order to meet our primary objective of educating our students. We must first provide for the physical safety of each child, each day. We depend on our School Resource Officers, District Safety Teams, and the supervision of school faculty and staff to provide safe conditions for children to learn. We depend on
our nurses and health officials to provide for the physical wellness of our children. Our social workers fill the gap when students struggle with food and housing insecurities and abuse. Unresolved social issues lead to mental health challenges, and our counselors and school psychologists work hard to address these issues because the majority of the behavioral issues we face are the manifestation of untreated trauma. We have administrators and expectation coaches teaching the behavioral skills students need to be successful in school and life. Our schools have assessment teams that assemble on a regular basis to assess students and provide academic support to improve a child’s academic readiness. Our teachers and teacher assistants create and implement lessons to engage students to help them grow academically. It only takes one gap in the umbrella and the village concept is not effective. However, there is good news. In our schools, we are fortunate to have faculty, staff, and community partners who love and grow all of our students every day. They are committed to being the village for our children. I am thankful for the partnership and enjoy celebrating each child’s success.