Perspective: Rodney Dale, Parent and Board Member

The backbone to any student’s success is strong family support. It’s motivating to know a loved one will show up at their parent teacher conferences, extracurricular activities, help with homework, give career guidance, and even punishment for not doing their best. Family support also gives the student daily examples of successful people to imitate or even surpass with various successes in life. The biggest thing a loving family provides is discipline to get up on time for school, how to be respectful to teachers as well as peers, and structure to stay on course to get positive goals accomplished.

Through the years the student population at Elkhart Community Schools has changed. The family structure often times is not traditional, in the way of a set of responsible parents being in the home. These days we have lots of children coming from single parent households with no active father in their lives, with some even being raised by grandparents. These dynamics often impact a child’s attitude at school and their academic performance. This isn’t because they aren’t receiving love from home, it’s just when poverty enters the picture, priorities change. It is hard for a child to focus on the school play or a science fair when rent is a struggle to be paid and dinner isn’t served because of financial troubles. With these challenges, academic achievement will often be less than satisfactory in schools with a lower socioeconomic demographic. Elkhart is not unique in this statistic – with few outliers, it is true all across the United States.

But in other ways, Elkhart is unique. One thing I know for certain is Elkhart consists of a special community of strong people who have weathered several economic downturns, as well as various other tragedies, but we always come out on top. We can’t do much to change what happens in a child’s home, but let’s get creative and not succumb to the statistics that go along with poverty. If a student has his mother at home, then we can all support his coach in being a father figure. For every girl being raised by an elderly grandmother who can’t get around anymore, let’s help the female English teacher who sees something special in the student, fulfill the role as mom or favorite aunt.

When I was in third grade at Lincoln Elementary, my mother was dying of cancer. Mrs. Bennie Payton, my teacher, stepped up each day I came into her class, going beyond educating to checking on my welfare and showing me that support was still there. While in eighth and ninth grade, I played quarterback for Mr. Dan Randolph and was a student in his social studies class. Mr. Randolph knew my father was lacking and I lived with my grandmother, so he talked to me about much more than sports or continents – he went out of his way to teach me about life. One of those role models for me is African American and the other was white – race does not matter in love.

I know Elkhart Community Schools has the staff and willingness to make sure all students succeed regardless to family structure. In our schools, let’s create our own families looking out for each other like brothers, sisters, moms, and dads. Blood isn’t bigger than love with that we are all related, let’s be trendsetters. Elkhart Community Schools, we can do this.