As the manager of attendance and truancy at Baltimore City Public Schools, the phrase “showing up is half the battle” shapes everything I do. It frames every meeting I attend, informs every conversation and lies at the core of every decision I make that affects City Schools students.
My embracing of the notion that showing up is half the battle results from my own childhood battles with absenteeism. Like many Baltimore students, school attendance was a challenge for me; I became a habitual truant and dropped out. After a year out of school, a series of personal struggles helped me realize that a better life was only possible through education. I returned to school—and went on to become a lifelong student.
In my career, I have learned to respect the realities that many of our students and their families face: where the demands of classroom lessons compete with the hardcore lessons of life, where the need to purchase uniforms competes with the need to stave off hunger and where completing homework is usurped by the demands of survival. These realities link absenteeism and public health, and we should all be prepared to do something about them.
City Schools is working to address barriers to attendance and to support families in getting students to school every day.
How can you help? The 2013-14 school year begins on August 26, and we want every student to be there, ready to learn. But we know that many families struggle to purchase school clothes. Your donation of $25 or more to City Schools’ uniform voucher program can help a student go to school on the first day–and every day—with confidence. Or you can support an entire school community by coordinating a clothing swap or starting a clothing drive. With all of Baltimore rallying around our students, we can ensure that simple things like clothing don’t get in the way of a successful school year.