As reported in The New York Times, First Lady Michelle Obama has used a recent series of inspiring commencement speeches to open up about her personal struggle with racism and to offer advice to graduating students about what it takes to succeed. Perhaps liberated by the fact that she and her husband have no more political campaign minefields to navigate, Mrs. Obama does not seem bridled by inevitable (and in our opinion, unwarranted) accusations of playing the race card. On the contrary, she is rightly seizing a moment when racism is trending to the top of the nation’s discourse to connect the gray dots between the Black Experience and the White House.
Chief among her many heartfelt exhortations is to encourage students to define themselves, as opposed to capitulating to stereotypes. She implores the graduates to ask for help and to resist being discouraged by hardship; to reach higher. Profound and inspiring advice, no doubt.
Imagine, however, if our education system began instilling these words of wisdom (and the tools to enact them) as early as age 8 instead of waiting for an inspiring commencement address.
This is precisely what our Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) values-based curriculum aims to do. By utilizing an interactive, progressive approach to start these conversations at an early age, we help children chart the critical path to self-discovery when it has the best chance to take hold.
In her commencement speeches, Mrs. Obama urged her audience of graduates to get involved, “to run to, and not away, from the noise.” With YLA’s tools for developing Life Skills such as Team Building, Self Discovery, Conflict Resolution and Digital Literacy, we can give young kids a running start.