Will You Be the One to Change a Life?

A message from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr.

As we prepare to break for the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to take a few minutes to express thanks and gratitude to each and every one of you — our families, our community members, our partners in the City of Alexandria and our community organizations. In order for our students to succeed, it takes each and every one of us. Thank you for playing your part in ensuring our students succeed!

We frequently talk about the vision of ACPS — that every student will succeed. But what does that really mean? And what does that look like for our students, staff and community?

‘Every student’ is easy to define. The term encompasses all our students across the spectrum — from 114 different countries and speaking 119 different languages. They are gifted, twice exceptional, have disabilities and come from all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds.

If you ask ten people to describe what success means to them, however, they will give you ten different answers. By its very nature, the definition of success is dependent on the person defining the word.

Success means different things to each of our students. Success may mean being able to read something one couldn’t read at the start of the year or learning to ride the bicycle when they never thought they would. This child may not get a trophy or be highlighted in the media, but their progress deserves to be celebrated as much as a student heading to an Ivy League university.

Success is almost impossible to achieve alone. By providing a solid foundation of support and removing barriers that may be preventing a student from reaching their full potential, students are more likely to succeed. Just as important is support from caring, determined and nurturing teachers and staff. Having the unwavering support of dedicated staff can make the difference between genuine success and a student who does not reach their full potential or go on to fulfill their life dreams.

The educators who made deep contributions to my success in life were those who believed in me when I did not believe in myself. They were the ones who never gave up on the idea that I could be successful and fulfill dreams I didn’t yet know I had. We must have the audacity as educators to believe that every young person, regardless of their life’s circumstance, deserves to be engaged in a high quality education every day. We must find that personal story that makes us be relentless about changing the lives of young people.

It is not only our teachers and staff who are responsible for a student’s success. The ultimate equation for student success is far more complex.

A successful student also has mentors — unofficial and official, among parents, friends and community members. They have support from businesses to get hands-on experience in the business world and coaching from business and community leaders who can provide inspiration when they need encouragement to get them to the next stage. Success for every student takes a community that truly believes every child can succeed and deserves to succeed. Success is also dependent on a community that is willing to take on expanding the educational experiences and opportunities for young people so that they are not only supporting the student to become the best they can be, but also supporting the City in that goal, too.

Along with volunteering and mentoring, support also means advocating for investment in education. It means supporting our schools so that our educators can live and become vested members of the same community in which they teach. It means supporting the allocation of resources to professional learning so that our staff know they are worth the investment of time and resources and want to stay and grow with our school division rather than moving elsewhere. It means simply saying “thank you” to our ACPS employees for their hard work and dedication each day in our schools.

I would not be who I am today without some of the amazing ACPS educators who helped me reach my full potential: Mrs. McKenzie, my kindergarten teacher, who gave me guidance in those critical formative years; Mrs. Lewis who helped me through second grade difficulties; Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Maness who provided the structure I needed a pivotal time before adolescence; Dr. Montenegro and Mrs. Finney in junior high school who earned my trust at a critical age when all boys need mentors and role models; and Principal John Porter, Mrs. Barnwell and Mr. Kokonis at T.C. Williams who helped me understand my skills before I understood myself. Now it is my turn to instill this same sense of worth in every ACPS student I serve.

To see every student succeed, it takes every teacher, every staff member, every parent, guardian, higher education administrator, business partner and community leader. If we all make that commitment — whether as a teacher, parent, staff member, mentor or community member — we can surely change the trajectory for students who deserve our support.

Who will our young people acknowledge when asked who changed their lives? Will it be you? Make that change.

With fresh ears, give a listen to this oldie but goodie this Thanksgiving.

ACPS, ACPS 2020, Alexandria City High School, Brooks, Charles Barrett, Cora Kelly, Early Childhood Center, Ferdinand Day, George Mason, George Washington, Hammond, International Academy, Jefferson-Houston, John Adams, Lyles-Crouch, MacArthur, Minnie Howard, Mount Vernon, Patrick Henry, Polk, Ramsay, Satellite, Tucker