When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

Taking Action After Tragedy

Taking Action After Tragedy

Elane V. Scott
Rick Stephens
Featured Guest:
Scott Huse

Everybody's Been Shot - Americans are exquisitely sensitive--just not to each other
Excerpted from an editorial by Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal, Friday, January 11, 2002

“There's a small but telling scene in Ridley Scott's [film] ‘Black Hawk Down’ that contains some dialogue that reverberates, at least for me. In the spirit of Samuel Johnson, who said man needs more often to be reminded than instructed, I offer it to all, including myself, who might benefit from its message. The movie, as you know, is about the Battle of the Bakara Market in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. In the scene, the actor Tom Sizemore, playing your basic tough-guy U.S. Army Ranger colonel, is in charge of a small convoy of Humvees trying to make its way back to base under heavy gun and rocket fire. The colonel stops the convoy, takes in some wounded, tears a dead driver out of a driver's seat, and barks at a bleeding sergeant who's standing in shock nearby:

Get into that truck and drive.

But I'm shot, Colonel.

Everybody's shot! Get in and drive.

"Everybody's shot." Those are great metaphoric words.

Dear Valued Stakeholders,

To each of you who labors to make a difference under the weight of unwanted attention, unanticipated losses, or shocking events, we dedicate this show to you. You are the citizens and stakeholder leaders of Danville, Illinois who have worked tirelessly to improve educational opportunities and the local economy (despite ongoing economic setbacks out of their control) for more than 11 years; the people of Waco, Texas who stand up proudly and point to today’s engaged community next to those who won’t let the memories fade of a crazed sect that brought unwanted international attention to their doorsteps; and the stakeholders of Santa Ana, California who rallied together when they learned how poorly their children were doing in school and elected to broaden an appeal for help by working with local churches and community health and parent support groups in addition to the schools. Natural disasters and unimaginable human tragedies at the local level of hundreds of America’s communities over the last two decades have brought people together in ways often never seen by their children. Some hurt by volatile circumstances, some gaining unwanted national attention, some weighted down by reminders of their past that just won’t go away, but all faced with seemingly tough, insurmountable challenges putting their way of life at risk. So many communities have been shot in some way, too. But the people who call these cities home didn’t quit. They got up, dusted themselves off, and brought people together to invent a new way to go forward. Their stories continue to inspire us and energize our thinking about how to be better prepared. Birth2Work was born out of a desire to help.

Today we are proud to welcome Scott Huse to our show as someone who was drawn into an effort to dramatically impact the hearts and minds of local community members after a terrible incident in a city near his own in Arkansas. On March 24, 1998, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, two boys, aged 11 and 13, shot and killed 1 teacher and 4 students, while wounding 10 others. It was a tragedy that didn’t just shatter the lives of those who were wounded or killed. It locked everyone in the school and for hundreds of miles around into a moment in history they will never forget. It was a day when time stood still. The memories may fade, but will never go away for them. Yet, out of this tragedy, a new dream for the future of families and children in Arkansas emerged and swelled to include thousands of parents, especially fathers, to be available and involved with their children’s schools.

For Scott, the dream of a group of men to make a difference like this for children everywhere led him to become the Chief Inspirational Officer for Schools And Families Engaged, known as the S.A.F.E. TEAM on Campus. Their vision and purpose is to start school-based volunteer programs engaging families and communities to support safety, personal responsibility, and education in schools all across the country.

Among the most challenging endeavors in this process were to establish that a school’s leadership was committed to involving families and community volunteers on a frequent basis and helping to make certain the classroom was a welcoming place for adults to be. Everyone cares about their child’s education, but with S.A.F.E. Team training, parents and other primary caregivers learn techniques and get tools to help assure a safe learning environment in the school. Parents have always been welcomed to school after the students’ day is finished, and on weekends as part of athletics programs. Athletics are an easy place for parents to be engaged because their presence is appreciated. They usually know the games and there is a physical place for them to be (in the stands, bleachers, etc). The classroom, however, has generally been off limits. In the past, parents only came to school during the day when their children were in trouble. But participating in the classroom can often feel much more overwhelming, as people can be scared of going in and don’t know how to help. They are afraid of the stories they’ve heard or read about in the local media like fights, even afraid of feeling stupid if they can’t answer a question asked by a student in class. Scott’s team helps caregivers become more comfortable and self-assured about engaging with their kids’ education as they see what really goes on at school.

At Birth2Work we believe in Scott Huse and the work of the S.A.F.E. Team. We think they are on the right track helping all parents become engaged at school on a regular basis and helping leaders and teachers to value them being there. We believe that local leadership like this is the defining form of leadership for the future. Community level challenges can and must be taken care of right where they are going on, just ask people who’ve been caught in snow storms this last year, floods, or hurricanes. Outsiders can only do so much. The long-term solutions are always local. Get trained and be ready. Every community stakeholder leader has the same charge. Be prepared. Look ahead. Stop the little problems before they get big.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy with devastating consequences to ignite action among a community’s leadership and its families to be prepared. Everyone gets “taken down” in varying degrees at different times, but our insurance for the future is paid today, through every small action and/or choice we make to invest time and energy with our kids teaching them how to solve tough, complex problems. Schools are not a separate entity from families. Families are the pipeline for schools and unfold the future of the community by the way they engage. Great community stakeholder leadership is the way to assure both. Birth2Work salutes the S.A.F.E. Team and stands ready with them, as Thomas Jefferson said, “favoring the dreams of the future and letting go of history.”

Elane V. Scott