GMA Feature: Hope For Students

By September 29, 2016Blog

The Dove Awards is honored to partner this year with an incredible organziation called “Hope For Students.” Check out our Q&A with the the founder and president of this amazing movement!

nicole-baker-fulgham-cropNicole Baker Fulgham is the founder and president of The Expectations Project and the Hope for Students movement. She is a former Teach For America vice president, policy analyst and public school teacher. She is the author of Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can & Should Do to Help Improve Low-income Public Schools for Kids.

What is Hope For Students?

Imagine an America where all God’s children have access to an amazing education, regardless of the zip code they live in, money their parents make, or color of their skin. Unfortunately, millions of our nation’s students are languishing under the weight of a public education system that propagates low expectations and denies them the opportunity to realize their God-given potential. As people of faith we are uniquely positioned and urgently called to respond.

Hope for Students is the nation’s largest movement of people of faith who are united around a common pledge to shine a light on education inequality through prayer, compassionate service and faithful advocacy. We’re partnering with churches, inspirational leaders, and powerful culture-makers like Kirk Franklin and the Gospel Music Association—and people just like YOU—who are committed to bringing an end to the extreme disparities in our nation’s public school

Tell us the story behind how it all began.

My conversion story on educational inequality began as I was starting my educational career as a fifth-grade teacher in a low-income public school in Compton, CA. In those classrooms I came face-to-face with the realities facing too many students. Our public schools are supposed to be places that help prepare our kids to achieve their God given potential. Some of our public schools are doing this incredibly well: amazing teachers, challenging classes, high graduation rates, preparing students for college and beyond. But for students growing up in poverty—often less than a zip code away—public education looks a whole lot different. Low expectations. High dropout rates. Children unprepared to achieve their dreams. It’s a tale of two public school systems, where the zip code you’re born into often determines your destiny.

We believe people of faith can stand in the gap and make a huge difference on this issue. We’ve done it before. The Abolition of slavery. The Civil Rights Movement. More recently around the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and human trafficking. People of faith played a major role on those issues. Why can’t we do it again on educational inequality?

Can you give me some interesting stats that reinforce why the Hope For Students movement is so necessary?

Sure. Here are a couple of facts to consider, and a bit of historical context.

More than 60 years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregated public schools as “inherently unequal”, the lived experience of millions of our nation’s students is still separate and radically unequal. A recent government report found that 16% of public schools have high concentrations of poor and black or Hispanic students, up from 9% at the start of the millennium. Low-income children are already three grade levels behind their peers in wealthier communities by the time they reach fourth grade. Only half graduate high school and 1 in 10 of them finish college.

This story of educational inequality is often told with numbers. But as Christians, the experience of young people– like those I met in my classroom in Compton–tell a different story. They remind us that it’s not just about numbers. It’s about real lives. Of course the numbers also matter. Because the numbers show us that my students were not outliers. Their stories repeat themselves, over and over again, for millions of students in classrooms and schools all across our country.

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What is your long term goal for Hope for Students?

There are more than 300,000 churches in America, compared to 50,000 high poverty public schools. We started Hope for Students because we believe no school should be under-resourced, no student should be without quality teachers or caring mentors, and no public policy that affects their life should go unexamined in places where there are thriving communities of faith. It’s easy to join the movement. You can start by taking the Hope for Students pledge. You’ll immediately get access to our “best of” list of amazing TED Talks you need to watch about education inequality, inspiring action and why this may be the most critical issue facing our nation today. Hope for Students is about giving everyone a place to start. You don’t need to understand everything, or have all the answers. You just need to make a commitment to understand more. Hope for Students is here to help you do that. It’s about the power of standing up and being counted.

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