A Message to the Young Girls Who Sit in Our Classrooms

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Every day as educators, we have the opportunity to make a lasting impression on our students. We stand at the front of the room and we teach, but at the same time, we hope to inspire. We hope our students’ dreams come true. It is our mission provide them with the roadmap to their destination. As a male educator, I look at the young ladies in my classroom and try to be the male figure that many of them do not have. It is my hope they see the greatness that I see in them. I say to my queens:

This is your time. No more do you have to wait. Take hold of your destiny and do not let anyone tell you to wait your turn. You have waited your turn long enough. Go after all your dreams unapologetically.

In case my words do not resonate, read the words of these strong female educators.

Ashley Beverly, 4th Grade Teacher at Avondale Meadows Academy

You are magical! Whether your melanin falls on the lighter or darker complexion on the spectrum, may you never allow anyone to think one is less than. May you ALWAYS remember your pose, smile, and manner and intelligence is in all of your blackness. May you find joy and comfort in uplifting other young ladies as much as you do uplifting yourself. Remember you are strong but your tears are there to release the pain to welcome healing. You ARE magical because of your unique hair, style, and grace. Be the best you can be EVERYDAY.

Juanita Price, Kindergarten Teacher at Tindley Summit Academy

What I wish my students knew, especially young, Black girls … we are already behind. We are already counted out. Don’t allow yourself to fit into the statistics. Be bold and courageous; work that much harder to be seen and heard.  Use your loud speaking voice. I can see you as a CEO, taking over boardrooms and hospitals, as jury and judge, and as leaders of STEM-focused careers. You are the future! Live out your dreams because as long as you believe in yourself you can be whatever you want to be. This coming from a young woman breaking the mold.

Orleta Holmes, Indianapolis K-12 Administrator

Dear beauties,

Don’t be afraid to speak your voice. Your strength, talent, innovation, and creativity are necessary for the world we live in. I challenge you to challenge, ask questions, hold others accountable, and be the change you seek. My beauties, never let your light be dimmed by others… Simply shine!

Keana Washington, Educator for Indianapolis Public School

Dear Queens,

Yes, you are a queen and you come from a long lineage of warriors. These warriors are women who were told that their goals were impossible; despite the haters, they persevered and so should you. You aren’t any different from those women. You can do all things. Do not allow haters to discourage you; allow them to motivate them. Do not allow your current circumstances to define you. Your current situation is not your final destination. Your strength is unmatched. Believe in yourself, be disciplined, and be intentional. Most importantly love yourself and encourage yourself. Realize that you have the power to speak positivity into every area of yourself. Be kind to yourself and work, plan, build, and dream.

Nigena Livingston, Founder of Urban ACT Academy

Dear Rising Young Woman,

Your destiny is waiting for you.  Be bold, courageous, and unapologetic when you bring your unique gifts and talents forward in this world. Your inner light is strong and rare. Hold your head up high and only look back at the past to learn from it and understand fully how far you have come.  You have everything you need to succeed in your journey forward.  I know this because deep within, you are good, wise, and powerful.  Go forth in this world, shine your light, and continue to be great!

Ashley Ford, Special Education Teacher at Northwest High School

Young Queen,

Regardless of your biology, geography, and financial situation, you are amazing! You have the divine right to become whomever you choose to be. Do not look to the ‘world’ for assurance or acceptance. All of that is relative. Be encouraged! You will have days where it may look bleak and you are unsure of the next step. Be encouraged! Yes, you will have heartache and disappointment, but do not let that bad moment become a permanent resting location. Use that as a mechanism of change. For most, failure or the potential of failing is a method to do better. Uplift your fellow queens. We need each other. We are not in competition with one another. Use each other as a resource. We can learn from our mistakes and celebrate our victories as one. Stay the course, and be encouraged! I believe in you. We ALL believe in you. Prove us right!

Katrina Overby, Indiana Doctoral Candidate/Adjunct Instructor

Be courageous and bold in your thoughts and actions. Be the you that you are when no one else is watching because it is your truest self. Do not dim your light, shine bright and find your voice, even if yours is in opposition to the majority. Your thoughts, perspectives, and experiences are valuable, important, and necessary. You are an important factor to the success of those around you who have the opportunity to be in the classroom with you. You are your own competition, not others around you. World-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni once said, “Deal with yourself as an individual worthy of respect, and make everyone else deal with you the same way.” Do this and you will be successful and fierce. Last but not least, when you are in my class… I hear you. I respect you. I see you.

Sylvia Denice, 4th Grade Teacher at Crooked Creek Elementary

I have always believed that only those who can handle it are chosen to be girls. Being a girl is not easy, and it gives you this beautiful, unique strength that only girls can have. As girls, we are called to believe in our greatness, even when others don’t. We are called to notice greatness in the girls around us, and to empower them to be their amazing selves. We cannot afford to tear down our fellow girls. Look for greatness in all girls. Support, encourage, and build them up. Tell them about the greatness you see in them. You are so good. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise; and if they try, you send them to me. I see greatness in you every day.

Shawnta S. Barnes, 9th/10th Grade E/LA Multi-Classroom Leader at Crispus Attucks High School

Life can be tough.  You need to know this up front and many of you may already know this, but don’t be discouraged.  Find your path and follow it to your dreams. As you continue on your life’s journey join in and support other women and allow other women to support you.  We are in this together.

Chrystal Westerhaus, Founding Principal of Avondale Meadows Middle School

Lady Scholars,

What I hope to see out of each of you is hunger, grit, and advocacy.  You must have goals and you must attack those goals like you are starving for their nourishment.  You must have grit because the moment you start to attack your goals, you will face some adversity and you will need strength to be victorious.  Lastly, once you make your mark, advocate for those who are just starting to set their goals.  Give back to others and show up for others.

Diamond Malone, 4th Grade Teacher at Crooked Creek Elementary

You are powerful. You have a platform and voice to make a difference in this world. Society sometimes attempts to diminish our value by making us feel ashamed or inferior for being a girl. It is important for you to remember that girls have been shaking things up for the better since the beginning of time. As girls, we are the movers and shakers that help shape the destiny of civilization. Continue to dream big, work hard, be better, and do more to make a dent in the world. Leave a positive and indelible footprint with every step you take. Smile, stand tall and proud with your head held high. Be proud to be YOU. Being you is enough. You are exactly what this world needs.

Note:  Quotes were edited for clarity.

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.