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Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition as well as The National Reclaim Our Youth Crusade, recently chose to spend some quality time with Inglewood Unified School District high school students, on his 66th birthday, as he delivered a motivational, interactive and inspirational speech to a packed-auditorium at Morningside High School (MHS).
In addition to the students from the host school, students from Inglewood (IHS), Hillcrest (HHS) and Inglewood City Honors High Schools (ICHHS), were joined by faculty members and staff, board members, local elected officials, community business and religious leaders, concerned parents and others who converged on the sprawling campus to listen to Jackson’s message and to celebrate the civil rights leader’s birthday.
Building on the premise that ‘no one will save us, from us, but us,’ Jackson’s message to the adults, before the student assembly, was equally as unrestrained as he admonished the adults to take a more active role in their child’s education and urged them to ‘pledge to PUSH for Excellence, by involving myself in the education of my children.’
The Parent Pledge he provided called upon parents to teach their children values and ethics, encouraged them to develop self-discipline and to learn as much as they can in school and at home. He also urged them to teach their children the importance of self-respect, respect for their teachers, and respect for their authority as parents.
More specifically the pledge stipulates that the parents will; ‘take my child to school at the start of each semester; exchange phone numbers with my child’s teacher; pick up my child’s report care each grading period; review my child’s test scores and homework assignments; provide my child with a quiet three hour study period each school night; take my child to church; and read to my child and or have my child read to me.’
Jackson’s ‘Student Pledge for Excellence in Education; and Against Drugs, Guns and Violence,’ urges the students to ‘pledge to PUSH for Moral and Academic Excellence by; Choosing life and giving peace a chance.’ In acknowledging violence as the number one threat to their lives, Jackson advised the students to understand the harm of guns, drugs and greed and encouraged them to disallow their school and community as a sanctuary for dope pushers, gunslingers and killers.
In addition, to win their commitment to ‘help stop brothers and sisters from killing brothers and sisters,’ Jackson urged students to choose hope over dope and life over death and asked them specifically to pledge to the following: “I will attend school daily and strive for excellence in all that I do; respect the authority of my parents and teachers; study three hours each night without interruptions; read each day; and complete all classroom and homework assignments.”
Inglewood School Superintendent, Pamela Short-Powell, Ed.D, felt that Jackson’s message was right on-time agreeing that a collective effort between the parents, teachers and students is essential for a child’s successful educational achievement. She also felt that Jackson’s interactive exchange with the captain of the Inglewood High School Football Team, provided an excellent contrast to the amount of time they may spend making themselves a better student.
From the podium, speaking to the team captain in the audience, Jackson quizzed the student about how much time he and his teammates spend practicing and developing their skills on the football field. After the exchange, Jackson demonstrated to the entire auditorium that it was possible for football players to practice three hours per day, without any interference from telephones, radios, television or girlfriends. He urged the students to deliver that same level of uninterrupted focus to their school work.
Jackson’s message, delivered to a mixed-group of Black and Hispanic students also addressed the need for tolerance and mutual acceptance of all races.
“I challenge you to learn to live together as brothers and sisters, across racial and religious lines.” Jackson implored. “Today, we are not facing parents calling us nasty names at the door or governors blocking our entrance to schools,” referring to past discrimination in the south where students were denied equal education opportunities. “Today we are facing jobs-out and drugs and guns-in.”
Ashley Scott, a student at ICHHS, was inspired by Jackson’s message. “Reverend Jackson was very inspirational.” She said. “He energized us to get ahead and encouraged all of us to go beyond the required two years of Spanish in high school and learn to speak fluently.”
Mario Mathews, a senior at HHS said. “Reverend Jackson encouraged me to focus on my education and inspired me to never give-up.” Gary Lacey, a senior at MHS said. “I got a good vibe and learned that there are going to be obstacles but if you can stay focused you can avoid being a statistic and do well.”
Before concluding his remarks and enjoying the surprise birthday cake provided by the students of MHS, Jackson urged the students to ‘achieve 100 percent attendance,’ indicating that ‘increased attendance means increased advancement and grades which means greater options to avoid the pitfalls of illiteracy.’
His last interactive exercise involved calling dozens of students to the front of the auditorium and waiting as each student who was at least 17 years of age registered to vote.