In my previous blog, I stated that one of the greatest opportunities ahead for the NativityMiguel Coalition is leveraging the collective power of so many dedicated individuals who support our schools locally as leaders, teachers, volunteers, donors and partners and inviting them all to connect and engage more fully in the broader movement.
My blog this week, which will be my last in this position, looks at the greatest asset and opportunity of the NativityMiguel Schools as we look ahead – inviting and leveraging the power of our graduates. We have over 6,500 graduates of member schools in the NativityMiguel Coalition now and each year another 650 students will graduate. That is 6,500 new graduates every ten years! Truly, our grads are the heroes in my book. They are the dreamers and the fighters. Our graduates exemplify what it means to be courageous, selfless, determined, persistent, fierce, and strong, and they teach us to love, praise, celebrate and rejoice in gratitude. I don’t mean to simplify, romanticize, exaggerate or gloss over the stories of our graduates when I say this. They have worked hard, tirelessly facing struggles, challenges, pressures, discrimination and distractions at a formative age that many people will never know. I have heard many of our graduates say that at times all of it loomed so unsurmountable that it would have been easier to give up.
I have often utilized an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s Mountaintop speech as I did with a Tedx talk recently at the Nativity School of Worcester and in opening our Ready to Lead training last month. This speech ends with the following: We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.
Our students benefit from mountaintop experiences that allow them the opportunity to look out and see the promised land, a vision of peace and justice for our communities that has its origins and its endings in the kingdom of God. The NativityMiguel Schools aim to deliver a rigorous and formative education that prepares students to be loving and contributing members of society who act upon a vision of the promised land and do what they can to ensure that we all get there someday. All students deserve access to an education with a similar mission and purpose, it is only just that we deliver on this promise for the students and families enrolled in our schools.
Through the power of facebook, I have been able to follow the young men that I taught in Baltimore who are now grown men with amazing personal and professional lives. Their posts often underscore that our graduates have personal experience with the stories of injustice that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. When the riots and protests erupted in Baltimore a couple of years ago, one former student from Baltimore posted the picture above on line with the following:
We are out here protecting corners and informing the young people. People may disagree but we understand. We are here to say we love them. And we want justice for freddie gray.
I also was connected with the compelling sermon of another student from Baltimore who has utilized his gift of music to inspire others toward that vision of justice. I urge you to watch and listen to his sermon on YouTube. This is why NativityMiguel Schools are so important. The voices of our graduates need to be heard and lifted up rather than silenced or squandered.
It has been 25 years since the riots in Los Angeles. A recent documentary on the National Geographic channel linked those riots to the Watts Riots 27 years earlier and the sparks of both of those riots are the same as what we have recently seen in Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities. NativityMiguel Schools have the critical responsibility to ensure that such riots do not happen again.
Our role is to reassure our students that the promised land is real and accessible for all, that they belong and have value in this land, that this promise is theirs as much as it is anyone else’s, and that their work, play and prayer has a purpose far beyond individual success. We present to them that in their lifetime we will get to a time and place in which love, freedom and justice is the order and we challenge them that they are as responsible for reaching this promised land as anyone else, even when there are obstacles in their way.
As I mentioned, this is my last blog in this position. This is not a mic drop moment; I am passing the mic over to someone else because this message needs to continuously be amplified. I am ecstatic that Danny Perez will be leading the charge. Who better to be the voice of this movement than one of our graduates. To quote Fr. Jack, “This is where it is supposed to go. Leadership by those who were formed to lead. This is absolute proof of the success of the model.”
The NativityMiguel school movement is still in its infancy; or perhaps at 25 years old, we are celebrating our commencement just like many of our grads. I believe our schools collectively stand on the cusp of a new wave of both struggle and brilliance ahead. This is a critical gauge for our schools. If our NativityMiguel education has accomplished what it was supposed to, our graduates in their personal lives and professional work will be the mind, voice and spirit of progress in all of our communities and will be at the forefront of the next generation leading the way forward.