By Stacey Boyd, Schoola Founder & CEO
Last week I dropped off my two girls at school. For days leading up to school starting both of them were giddy. My youngest, a second grader, was looking forward to seeing her best friend, and jumping back into math class and PE. And my eldest, who is now a fifth grader, could not wait to see friends, audition for the school play, and figure out who her teachers would be for each subject.
While I shared their enthusiasm, and truly reveled in it, I am always a bit sad and wistful on the first day of school too. Part of that is knowing another carefree summer has come and gone. Part of that is lamenting the passage of time and how quickly their childhood is passing. But in dropping them off, I am always confident that they are not only safe in their schools, but are nurtured, challenged, and shaped by the teachers and classmates around them. I am exceedingly grateful to be able to experience this sense of security, community, and promise when I entrust my girls to their school every morning.
I am well aware that this is not the case for every child their age. Early on in my career I founded a charter school in the urban center of Boston. The middle school was as diverse as the city, with many students coming from less stable or fortunate family backgrounds. A third of our students were 3-5 years below grade level when they started with us. Many were on free and reduced lunch. Yet irrespective of background I would see students simply come alive as a result of being in a safe environment and challenged academically and socially in school.
Our family recently had the opportunity to meet Malala Yousafzai and hear her speak about the challenges facing girls from her home country, not that far off in age from my own daughters, many of whom do not have access to education at all. Malala, now 18 years old, was shot in the head by the Taliban at age 14 for speaking out for her own right to an education. She speaks so passionately about the challenges she and many girls face in gaining access to education, and why she is leading a movement to change that.
While my two girls are only just beginning their educational journey, 66 million girls in the world are not in school. And the world’s poorest girls, if they go to school at all, only receive an average of three years of education. Total. Many girls have parents who can not afford to send them to school. Others face violence and harassment that prevent them from getting to school in the first place. Malala embodies the perseverance, grace and fortitude that is required to overcome these challenges, and I for one, stand #withMalala on the simple assertion that every girl deserves access to a safe and quality education.
But what can we do? While it is tempting to ease into the school year feeling content (albeit a little wistful) in our own return to normalcy, I think we must challenge ourselves to expand our awareness beyond our own comfortable classrooms, and connect with a greater community of school-age girls. I urge parents to take their kids to see the film He Named Me Malala. Once you have heard Malala’s story as I have, you can’t help but exit the theater with a strong desire to stand #withMalala and work toward safe, quality education for all girls.
Schoola was founded in order to help children reach their full potential at school, so we are honored to help share Malala’s story and mission. This fall, Schoola will send 5,000 students to see the film in partnership with the Students Stand #withMalala program. In addition, we will be accepting clothing donations on behalf of the Malala Fund starting today, with the goal of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for her foundation through sales of the items on Schoola.com.
I’d like to invite you to take a small step to show your support for Malala today: request a donation bag and clean out your closet to support this incredible young woman with a powerful mission. Stay tuned for more information regarding how Schoola and several of our partners are working together to help Malala in her goal to educate girls around the globe.
Stacey Boyd founded Schoola based on her experience as a former teacher, charter school founder, and a mother of two girls. She saw firsthand how kids who were struggling academically could come alive in a music class, and how art, physical education, and foreign language could have a profound effect on students. She leads Schoola’s team to ensure that these foundational school experiences don’t disappear from our schools due to lack of funding.