By Cristina Litt
It was a packed house at the 10th annual AchieveMPLS luncheon on Friday afternoon. Tables were filled with representatives from local businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions. The Junior League of Minneapolis filled one of those 50+ tables and we anxiously waited for the speakers to begin.
After the standard, welcomes and thank-yous, a high-school senior from Patrick Henry took the stage and immediately grabbed the attention of the noisy room. She was confident, proud and incredibly well spoken as she shared her story of perseverance and determination. An imprisoned father, a mother who attempted suicide, 5 younger siblings who needed her attention, and a neighborhood that had already taken 3 of her classmates to street violence by the age of 14. It has been a constant battle for her to decide between taking the streets (as she called it) and bettering herself through education. She talked about her younger siblings as her inspiration to stay focused and show them that they deserved better. And she has done exactly that – college bound, filled with hope and the ability to inspire a room filled with strangers.
Sitting there in amazement of this young lady, I began to think about her classmates facing similar obstacles and wondered do they all have the tenacity and strength that she has. Wes Moore, then took the stage and his book “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates”, addresses this very question. What about the stories that end in tragedy? What about all the kids that don’t make it and why? If I were to boil his whole story down into one statement, it is this: “we are a product of our own expectations”. Meaning if we expect to be successful, then we will find a way to make it happen and on the flip side if we expect to fail, we likely will find a way to make that happen to. The same is true for our community’s children, if we expect kids from the tougher neighborhoods to end up in jail, in low paying jobs or victim to street violence, then our kids will find a way to make it happen. But if we expect them to be successful, contributing citizens, then they will also find a way to make it happen.
And as a Junior League member and proud Minneapolis resident, I can tell you that I left the luncheon inspired and motivated to ensure that every student in our community feels like they have an opportunity to succeed and that we expect them to live up to that opportunity.