By Barbara Harris
I'm headed to Trenton this morning because I need legislators to know what my grandsons' public charter school means to them.
I'm raising two African American boys in Newark and we all know in this country what can happen to African American men, especially if they drop out of school.
Uncommon Schools' North Star Academy is providing my grandchildren with an education like nothing that I experienced for myself or for my own children.
When I hear my elected representatives speaking negatively about charter schools, I want to ask them if they have ever visited North Star Academy. If they did, they would quickly see how well it is serving my grandchildren and the other kids who attend.
There are too many lawmakers who have never stepped foot in North Star Academy, or a school like it. They have never come for morning circle. They have not met with our wonderful teachers. They have not seen how well our children are doing in class.
So I'm going to the Trenton State House along with hundreds of other charter families from across the state to let these lawmakers know that charter schools are working for our children.
In my experience, North Star approaches education differently. It starts early in the morning when the children come to school. Many of the kids in our neighborhoods come from broken homes, where there may be drugs or violence.
When they arrive at North Star, there are usually three or four teachers there to greet them, shake their hand, give them hugs and say, "good morning." I don't know how the teachers do it, but they remember every child's name. It may seem like a small thing, but it's exactly what our kids need. It's daily nourishment for the soul.
When my own children went to public school 20 years ago, if I wanted to get in touch with their teacher, I'd have to call the main office, then leave a message. More often than not, I wouldn't get a call back. At North Star, I am never left in the dark. I have teachers' cell phone numbers. I can call them anytime I want. And believe me, I do.
The teachers and the families at North Star have a special bond. It's like we are one big family all working together to raise our children. The school is so inviting for parents, and grandparents, like me.
From the moment my oldest grandchild entered North Star, I knew it was going to be different. Even in kindergarten, they told me about the expectations for my grandson to go to college.
One of my grandsons was diagnosed with ADHD. In many schools, he would have been medicated and classified as special education. At North Star, they understood I didn't want him medicated and they have been willing to work with him, though it's not always easy.
There are times when he goes into a closet in a classroom and just cries. But the staff knows how to handle that. They are patient and kind and work with me. Together as a team we are making progress for him.
Sometimes, I think about moving.
But my grandsons don't want to leave because of North Star. I will not leave because of how well they are doing at North Star.
When it comes to my grandsons, I don't play. That's why I'll be in Trenton today.
Barbara Harris is a grandparent and primary caregiver of two boys attending North Star Academy, which serves over 4,600 students in Newark and is part of Uncommon Schools.
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