I have often heard the saying “Our children are the future,” and for the longest time I thought to myself, how cliché. That was until I realized that my child’s opportunity for a better education was in jeopardy. That is when the phrase hit home.
Her first year in school, my daughter Noelani would come and tell me of the things she’d mastered and then re-taught to other children in her class. With other children running academically behind there was seemingly no time for her to be challenged beyond what she already knew. I wanted to find a better fit for her but the public school in the neighborhood and private schools – too expensive to actually consider – were my only options.
I grew frustrated thinking that if our children are the future, why don’t we give all of them the best education possible? Why are other parents fighting against it and why don’t I, as a parent, have any real options to set my daughter up for success? Is she destined for a subpar education and a subpar future, based on the zip code we live in?
But then I discovered SOAR Academy.
I am a full-time student myself, and I learned about SOAR Academy while writing a research paper on the impact of arts education in schools. SOAR Academy, a charter public school in Tacoma, has an arts-integrated curriculum that incorporates dance into the regular school day, and personalizes learning for every student, to meet his or her unique academic, social and emotional needs.
I listened to misconceptions my neighbors, friends and classmates perpetuated about charter public schools. I knew that with SOAR Academy being a brand new school, my daughter would be one of the school’s first ever students. But I trusted my own research and was inspired by the passion and vision of the school’s founder. The opportunity was too good to pass up, so I took the risk and moved my daughter over to SOAR for the first grade.
After one year at SOAR, the positive impact on Noelani has been astounding. She comes home excited to share with us what she learned that day. She loves her teachers because, in Noelani’s words, “They don’t get mad when students mess up. They help us work through the problems and learn from our mistakes.”
Noelani’s personalized learning plan has her reading chapter books – in the first grade! When we read together, she effortlessly tackles words I thought for sure she would need help with. SOAR’s diverse staff members are committed to helping each student reach their individual potential and increasing every child’s ability to succeed.
SOAR not only focuses on academics but also fosters a positive social and emotional learning environment, where children take other students’ feelings into account and stand up for kids who may be susceptible to bullying. SOAR provides a room for students to wind down in, if feeling overwhelmed or emotional. SOAR also recognizes that kids need to be kids – teachers give students “wiggle breaks” throughout the day, knowing that students will do better when they have the chance to move their bodies.
And it turns out that being a “founding family” of SOAR Academy means teachers and staff know our names and treat us like family. As a parent, I get same-day responses when I call or email teachers. The teachers and staff at SOAR actually want to hear my voice.
I want everyone with doubts about charter public schools to visit SOAR (or one of Tacoma’s other charter public schools, Green Dot Destiny Middle School and Summit Olympus High School) to see for themselves what it looks like when schools take seriously the idea that our children are the future.
Learning comes alive.
I am so proud to watch my daughter grow with the help of teachers and staff at SOAR. My hopes and dreams for my daughter’s future are for her to realize and accomplish her own hopes and dreams and to have a support network to nurture her along that path.
To all parents who have the same hopes and dreams for their children, I encourage you to take a tour of SOAR Academy, Destiny Middle School, or Summit Olympus High School, and give Tacoma’s charter public schools a chance.
Tacoma’s charter public schools are now enrolling for 2016-17, and are hosting tours on July 28. To learn more about these options and the school tour, visit: wacharters.org/enroll/tacoma.