Brenda Martin,  Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress, Kentucky 2011. Founder, UCAN, Inc.

In Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream speech, he noted that his dream was deeply rooted in the American Dream.  I believe Dr. King’s dream erupted exponentially with the birth of Education Nation.  It allows the labor of many to catapult into a forum that breathes life into sharply awakening issues that “keep hope alive“, that one day each child will receive a stellar education and truly reach for the stars.  A dream come true was not only for me to attend NBC’s Education Nation in my hometown Chicago, from Kentucky, but also later being selected as a panelist on its forum, “Stepping Up: The Power of a Parent Advocate” for  Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City! Natalie Morales moderated this discussion at the Education Nation Summit 2011.  Other panelists were Phil Jackson, Peg Tyre, Ben Austin, Dennis Walcott, and Janet Barresi

Natalie Morales asked about the “accessibility” of the American Dream to all students.  We can look at achievement gaps for African Americans, Hispanics, disabled students, lower-income students as well as dropout rates that are more than 50% in some schools, and see that not everyone is fully realizing that dream.  According to America’s Promise Alliance,  (who is having its 2nd annual Grad Nation Summit in Washington DC March 18-21) and the Alliance for Excellent Education, a child drops out approximately every 26 seconds, averaging about 7000/day and over 1 million a year.  Moreover, with – some cheating schools that masked test scores;  funding cuts to Gifted Ed, Special Ed, arts programs; textbooks; lack of technology in many urban and rural schools; lack of adequate funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); lack of sufficient teaching staff accountability and parental engagement; and approximately 25% of our children living in poverty – we can see that too many students are not receiving the best preparation to fully access the American Dream. This makes parent engagement and volunteerism even more mandatory!

Parent volunteers are often seen as the cookie bakers and fund raisers.  While we appreciate those who bake goods and raise money,  we celebrate that parents have broken the “cookie cutter mold” of volunteerism and we are mentoring; leading organizations in gifted education, PTAs, after school clubs; blogging; advocating for our children in our schools, states and nation’s capitals and more! Parents like Gwen Samuel, Mom Congress of Connecticut, are starting parent unions!

Despite some of the wonderful undertakings at many schools, too many children are waking up to nightmares due to family crisis, economic misfortune, homelessness, violence, drug and gang infested neighborhoods, and yet still go to school. One of my key points related to the zip code discrimination that occurs and how poverty impacts learning.  For example, statistics show that students who consistently don’t eat breakfast have more behavior problems,  more absenteeism and don’t do as well in Math, etc.  But, with much work and honing support, we can change this uneven landscape.

In my previous article, “Education Nation’s Revolution is Being Televised“, I expressed how impressed I was with the youth who interviewed me from Roadtrip Nation.  They asked very insightful questions about challenges I’ve met and choices I’ve made. They also interviewed LeBron James, NBA player; Tom Brokaw, NBC Special Correspondent; Geoffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone; Tony Miller, U. S. Dept. of Education Deputy Secretary; Steve Capus, NBC News President and other executives and leaders! Click here to see their youtube video of those interviews and that exciting experience!

Education Nation has championed the challenge of improving quality education in America by keeping it on the front burner with dynamic dialog by people in the field of making education better for all! It does an excellent job of convening educators, parents, policymakers, business & community leaders, students, elected officials and engaged citizens in a national conversation on the important issue of education.  It was last viewed by 52.4 million Americans. is the perfect complement to the network’s on-air programming and events…. The site also helps broaden the scope of the discussion by incorporating voices from across the country online,” said NBC News President Steve Capus.

NBC’s Education Executive Team including NBC’s Education Nation’s President, Michael Chen, with Steve Capus, et. al

I am grateful to have been influenced by fantastic leaders such as Cathy McManus and Byron V. Garrett through Mom Congress and PTA.  But, 2011 marked the loss of some other very talented visionaries such as Steve Jobs and Gil Scott-Heron.  Mr. Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers, led a cultural transformation in mobile communications and music for the digital age.  Mr. Heron, whom I met, transformed “spoken word” into music and political rhythm. He was perhaps best known for his composition, “The Revolution Will Not be Televised.”  Whether we’re going from “Rhythm Nation” to “Grad Nation”, one thing is for sure, with “Education Nation”, the Education Revolution Is being Televised!  I appreciate it not just as a television show, but as an insightful show of telescopic vision!  Their valuable information is helping to lead a much-needed transformation. We must be open to learn, unlearn or relearn.  As Dr. King’s mentor, Mahatma Gandhi stated, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”

About Bren Martin

Brenda is an education advocate and has been an active leader in the schools, church and community. She is a National PTA Social Media Ambassador and was a Panelist on NBC's Education Nation in New York City, "Stepping Up: The Power of a Parent Advocate," for Parenting Magazine. Brenda was honored by the U. S. Department of Education and the White House as a “Champion of Change” for educational advocacy. She is Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress-Kentucky delegate and a recipient of Knowledge Universe-KinderCare’s Education Achievement Award! (See Parenting Magazine’s, “The Power and Potential of Parent Advocates,“ and one of Brenda’s articles, “Changing Us, Changes Them.“) Some of her services include: District PTA President and State PTA Board; Education Commissioner's Steering Committee for Teacher Effectiveness. She is a former regional President, Gifted Education; Summer Camp Creator/Director; Church Youth Director; Vacation Bible School Director; Prichard Committee’s Commonwealth of Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL) Fellow; School Based Decision Making; Employability Skills Consultant to prison & colleges; Television Special host and more. Also, Follow Brenda on Twitter @bdrumartin. Disclaimer: Use sites, blogs, information or links at your own risk.
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