Alma Powell examines the school’s place in society and the promises we should be making our children.
“Schools are not just for education,” said Alma Powell, chair of America’s Promise Alliance, at an Institute Washington Leadership Series lunchtime event. “They are the centers of the community.” Acknowledging that it does indeed “take a village to raise a child,” Powell declared that America has to “meet the needs of children before we can educate them.” To that end, she laid out the five promises to children that her organization advances: All children need (1.) a caring adult in their lives, (2.) a healthy start (from medical care to basic nutrition), (3.) a safe place to go after school, (4.) the opportunity to learn a marketable skill, and (5.) the opportunity to be of service to others.
Citing community-driven education hubs like the Harlem Children’s Zone, Powell called for schools—especially those in the neediest neighborhoods—to take on the care of children “from cradle to 18” with stand-alone medical clinics, after-school programs, early childhood-development classes, job training, and more. It’s what she called “educare.” Powell also called into question the length of the average school day and year: “There is absolutely no reason kids need to be out of school three months out of every year.”
Still, Powell was enthusiastic about the number of incredible programs throughout the country and especially in Washington. She noted the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation, Experience Corps, and the SEED School (the only charter boarding school in the country) as examples of America’s promises at work. “We need to keep these promises in front of America until they become engrained in our minds.”