Equipping U.S. children for success in challenging times

Early last month, I’d been enthralled each night watching the Olympics. Now that it's September, my focus turns back to school and school shopping lists. You can’t miss the signs or commercials urging you to shop now while the specials are good.

However, as I began shopping for my three children, my heart was somewhat pained.

Our country is a world leader in many ways. The United States won an amazing 104 medals in the Olympics. But many American children who are seeking to take part in that greatness by learning and completing school face amazingly difficult conditions.

Some don’t even have access to basic school supplies.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2012 back-to-school spending survey, the average parent with children in grades K-12 will spend nearly $100 per child on school supplies alone. Overall, surveyed families will spend $688.62 on their children for back-to-school items, up from $603.63 last year.

Teacher Susan Karlen helps 9-year-old Garret Chewning on his assignment. Educators at Coalton Elementary School in West Virginia have access to brand-new school supplies through World Vision's Teacher Resource Center. (Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

That's a staggering number for families already facing tough times. Today’s students are not only bringing their own supplies on the first day of school, but classroom supplies like copy paper, Kleenex, and Ziploc bags.

Why are the costs so high? Children grow, and until we figure out a way to get their clothes to grow with them, the annual price of buying shirts, pants, and shoes will remain.

And shrinking budgets for classrooms have pushed the cost of many vital supplies onto families. Teachers need items like Kleenex® to ensure that runny noses are wiped and their classrooms don’t become ground zero for the spread of germs.

The Olympic creed states: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

I have sat with hundreds, if not thousands of young people who do this each day. They walk to school afraid because their neighborhoods aren’t safe. They engage and learn despite the distraction of hunger or other issues. They dream of making a difference, despite underfunded schools that only graduate 50 percent of students.

They do this because they value education and the life-changing difference it can make. They have committed to the struggle.

Those students entering high school this year begin their own Olympiad, the four-year interval between the Olympic Games. They will be graduating the next time we watch the Summer Olympics.

Each of us are able to support them, and all those children who follow them, as they build their academic muscle and increase their skills and knowledge to compete in the job market. We can help all children receive the education and training they need by ensuring they have the basic tools to learn.

Third-grader Ledell Martin in Chicago has been on the honor roll for three years in a row. He also carries a World Vision-donated backpack. (Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

The modern Olympics were revived by a French nobleman, Pierre Fredy, Baron de Coubertin, who was born in 1863. He believed that the education system could be reformed through sport. He also saw how athletic competition could promote understanding across cultures, thereby encouraging peace.

Coubertin was inspired by the ancient Olympic Games and dedicated his life and fortune to try to persuade people to revive them. Eventually, he managed to bring together representatives of many different countries in Paris in 1894, and the modern Olympic movement began.

I believe access to a quality education and having the tools you need to learn is key to breaking the cycle of poverty in the life of a child. The education of all our children is key to breaking the economic crisis we currently face.

Like Coubertin, I hope to encourage a revival -- this time, in care and concern for the country’s children. We should see their success or failure as far more significant than even that of our Olympic athletes. The quality of their education speaks to who we are as a country. We can do more and make a bigger difference.

We invite you to join World Vision’s U.S. Programs in championing the cause of children. Together, let’s help them live the Olympic motto --"Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which is Latin for "Swifter, Higher, Stronger"-- in every facet of their lives.

Read related post: World Vision's teacher resource center: like Christmas for teachers
Read related story: Equipping U.S. children for success in a new school year

Want to help children in need right here in the United States as they head back to school? Here are two ways you can:

  • Have your church congregation take up a collection to support World Vision's Teacher Resource Centers, which provide essential supplies and educational items in areas where the need is great for students, teachers, and schools.
  • Make a personal donation to help provide school supplies to U.S. children in need as a new school year begins. Combined with corporate contributions, your gift will multiply to help deliver essential items like pens, pencils, erasers, notebooks, crayons, glue, rulers, videos, educational games, and more.


    No better time to pay attention and take proactive and definite actions. This calls for Global Action.

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