America’s greatness is built not just on our laws and our leaders, but on our fundamental belief in fairness and merit. The promise of America is that people from all backgrounds have the ability to become great leaders and to achieve excellence.
As a Haitian immigrant who arrived in the United States as a teenager, this promise was the basis of my success. I had the support of my parents, a love of learning, and the desire to give back -- all of which helped me live up to America’s gift of opportunity. However, it was through the talent of one extraordinary individual -- Ms. Wilson, my English teacher -- that I learned to love learning.
When I first arrived in the U.S., I struggled in school because English was my second language, but Ms. Wilson changed everything. She took a special interest in me and brought her life and interests into the classroom, and in doing so, brought to life the subject that she taught. I learned poetry, literature, and writing by listening to Bob Dylan and other music on her old record player.
Ms. Wilson awoke a spirit of learning in me and showed me that thinking broadly, and without limits, opens possibilities. I still carry this lesson with me today.
Fostering innovation to achieve ambitious goals is central to our work at the Corporation for National Community Service and a guiding principle for me as the Corporation’s CEO.
At CNCS, we have a simple strategy: create the conditions that make children and youth want to learn and give them the opportunity to achieve.
Our programs improve students' academic achievement by increasing their engagement; students do better in school when school does better by them. This is the only way our students discover the skills they need to master –and the love of learning they need to thrive in college and beyond.
We connect caring, capable individuals with students who benefit from their time and personal attention. Millions of people serve to help millions of students succeed.
Over the next five years, we will bring our proven national service efforts to the schools and communities where students lack the attention and validation they deserve. We don’t promise a diploma with honors for every student, but we promise to help all students engage and achieve.
Every child should have access to a quality education. Great teachers are, outside of parents and students, the most crucial players in this equation.
The impact Ms. Wilson had on my life is an amazing reminder that the extraordinary dedication of one person can leave, as Robert F. Kennedy said, ripples of hope that reverberate for years and through many people.
A great teacher can inspire a love of learning and change a life forever.
Choose to be great, invest in the future, and make a difference in the life of a child. Become a teacher so you can join the leaders already making a difference in the classroom today.
Patrick A. Corvington is the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.