In Southeast Los Angeles’s most under-resourced and predominately diverse neighborhoods of Compton, Lynwood, and Bellflower, David Anderson has served as an educator in the expanding learning and youth development space for more than 15 years.
The general manager of Think Together’s Southeast Los Angeles region, Anderson leads a team of role models helping students through enrichment curriculum in the area.
Anderson has passionately advocated for the education equity needed in the public school system, noting that it’s a requirement to have successful college and post-education careers.
This year, Anderson and his team have served more than 17,000 students in both a distance learning and in-person support capacity, with students of color comprising nearly 84 percent.
Anderson told Black Press USA that students, parents, teachers and administrators of color all face various levels of challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The biggest challenge with many of the students of color we serve is engagement,” Anderson noted. “Students are faced with inefficient resources, little excitement to learn, and are born without being surrounded by role models and motivations which lead a child to dream, work hard and be successful.”
He said the students his team serves are primarily students of color, born without choices and not enlightened to dream.
“Parents of the students of color are often challenged to provide for their children without the resources and support they need for themselves,” Anderson said. “These parents have a lack of resources, a lack of time for mental and physical health, and limited time for communication and social-emotional support of their children. That yields an unhealthy and fatigued environment that takes the energy and will to continue to work hard and make it with only hope alone.
“It is next to impossible for a parent to progress and be their child’s support and motivation while exhausted and without the belief that continuing to work even harder can improve the lives of themselves and their family,” he said.
At the same time, teachers and administrators work together to find innovative ways in-person and virtually to make learning fun and help students support students’ academic trajectory and provide enrichment opportunities that students of color are not exposed to and cannot afford, Anderson said.
“Our students are not paying $3,000 to $15,000 to learn teamwork and confidence building through activities such as e-sports, coding, sailing and photography. Nor are these students of color able to afford a sports trainer for the student to develop mastery in a sport to be competitive at a young age truly,” he said.
“Without school, these students are not often exposed to financial literacy nor the growing unlimited STEM and tech careers that a child may choose to pursue if their parents or family worked in these industries,” he added.
“It is at school where students of color learn civic engagement, leadership, entrepreneurship, and how to create generational change,” Anderson said. “Through adversity, teachers and administrators of color especially have the mantle of leadership to build a system of support for current students to rise, have successful careers and lives, and those students as adults may lay a framework for the next generation of students to be born into a life with choices.
“The next generation of students are to be born exposed to role models at home, enlightened to subjects and careers they may become passionate about, have goals, the will, and belief in themselves to work hard and make their dreams a reality,” he said.
The educator also noted that students of color and educators still face another barrier: balance.
“Regardless of your work and school environment, everyone is facing challenges,” Anderson said. “If you are fortunate to have a job still, you may be working and teaching from home. If you are a parent or caregiver, working from home is accompanied by the challenge of balancing home and work responsibilities.
“There are heroes in this work deemed essential,” he said. “These essential persons have the responsibility of being extra-cautious because, whether or not they have dependents, their health supports others’ well-being. Beyond balancing home, work, and responsibilities are the balance and performing at high levels versus simply accomplishing tasks.
“Folks currently have the will, however, they often do not have the time nor the energy to be the daily highest performer and greatest achiever had they not had to balance,” Anderson said. “For sustainability, mental and physical health, it is vital to balance achieving at the highest level with ensuring impact and success and simply being our best in a given moment. Your best is enough.”