A Mother’s Dream Comes True In Achievement First Senior Signing Day

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Joann Deas

As the mother of a high school senior, people always ask me about my daughter’s plans for the future. The answer to this question is simple, and it’s something I’m proud to share: my daughter will be attending Buffalo State. On Tuesday, Al’laysia attended a Senior Signing Day to celebrate this accomplishment with her friends and classmates. Together, they make up the first graduating class of Achievement First University Prep High School, a public charter school in Bushwick.

For some families, sending their children to college is an expected fact of life. But for me, and for many of the other parents who cheered their kids on at Senior Signing Day, it’s more like a dream that we’re so grateful is coming true.

Personally, I never had the chance to go to college. I always wanted Al’laysia to have this opportunity, but before she was accepted to Achievement First Bushwick, I wasn’t sure whether she would get the tools she needed to pursue higher education. 

Once Al’laysia started at AF Bushwick, however, this uncertainty disappeared. From her very first day there, and then throughout her time at AF University Prep, her teachers and principal assured me that she would be prepared for college. I never had any doubts that they were looking out for her, and I always knew that if anything threatened to take her off this path they would work with me and Al’laysia to resolve the issue.

This kind of investment in students’ futures is something that happens at public charter schools like Achievement First’s all across New York City. These schools give families like mine the chance to give their kids a great public education. They offer exciting classes taught by inspiring teachers, and make college preparation a priority.

Clearly, this worked for Al’laysia. The science classes she took at AF University Prep got her interested in a career in forensics, and the constant encouragement and support she received helped her earn a spot at the college of her dreams.

Because I believe every student deserves to have this same opportunity, I’ve become an advocate for public charter schools.

Achievement First Bushwick, Achievement First University Prep, and other charter schools in the city are currently facing serious challenges. They want to grow in size and accept more of the children who apply for a spot, but they don’t have the resources and space to do this. As a result, thousands of families end up on public charter waiting lists.

This pattern is repeating itself right now for the upcoming school year: for every one student that was accepted to a charter school, two other students were turned away.

Fortunately, state and city leaders can solve this problem. All they have to do is listen to families’ demand for charter schools and pass funding and space policies that recognize public charter students as equals. I’ve advocated for this during rallies and meetings with legislators in New York City and Albany, and I’ll continue this activism after Al’laysia graduates.

When my daughter was accepted to Buffalo State, I was overcome with pride and happiness. It’s the same feeling I had watching her at Senior Signing Day, and the feeling I know I’ll have at graduation when she walks across the stage in a cap and gown. Every parent deserves to experience this feeling, and every kid deserves to have a shot at college. Until they do, I’m going to keep fighting for public charter schools..

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