Friday, January 2, 2009

Education: A Road Map for the Future Say Lisa Powell of Your Black World

By: Tolu Olorunda

Lisa Powell is the mother of Caitlin Powell. Caitlin, as you many know, is a family member, whose exceptional talent is inspiring thousands of kids and parents across the country. At just 10-years of age, Caitlin Powell is a role-model, motivational speaker, writer, telecaster and singer. Alongside taking advanced-courses in school, she is also the host of her nationally-syndicated webcast, “Caitlin’s Corner TV,” which helps motivate students toward academic success. Caitlin has a rare gift, and her mom is the first to acknowledge that; but it takes the diligence, skill, dedication and patience of a parent, to help nurture raw talent into a resource of enlightenment and inspiration. Lisa Powell, a social worker, took the initiative of employing her occupational skills in the home, and help craft Caitlin into the jewel she is today. As a mother of three, Powell has also had to face the challenges that child-rearing can incur.

Lisa Powell says she first noticed an “excitement” in Caitlin at a very young age, which always took everything she did “to the next level.” Being her first child, she always “set goals” for Caitlin, because she wanted to see her “be the best that she could be.” As an experienced social worker, Powell knows the dangers of “pushing kids too hard,” or not “pushing them hard enough.” Finding the right balance, between those two tangents, was the key to success in raising Caitlin. At a young age, Powell remembers how Caitlin was very interested in a lot of things, but had to be more specific in her interests. “She [Caitlin] would ask a lot of questions,” and this being the “key to a critical mind,” led Powell to “dedicate” her “life and time to seeing my daughter attain the best [that she could be].” Powell sees it as very important for parents to “tune in” to the characters and interests of children, instead of trying to impose certain qualities upon them.

When it came to setting goals for Caitlin, Powell was very concerned with the school-choice for her daughter. Deciding to take the public school route was not easy, but Powell found a way to work within the public school system. By sacrificing financially, though hard at the time, Powell was able to spend more time with Caitlin and mentor/tutor her, as she navigated the, often turbulent, terrain of the Public School system. “When she was younger, I worked full time, but when my second daughter was born, I had to step back – I now work from home – to make sure that I was at the school, making close contact with the personnel and things like that,” she says. “My first goal was to make sure that if we [Lisa and her husband] could get her into the advanced-placement program, we got her that route.” This would take “advocacy, and [Caitlin’s] high test scores” to earn that spot in advanced-placement.

As Lisa Powell sees it, a healthy self-esteem also goes a long way in achieving educational achievement for children. “I talk to my girls about the things that they like,” she says. “I don’t push them into anything that would put them down, or make them feel less than what they are.” Powell says that children are capable of learning from birth, and it is the responsibility of parents to begin the process of “bonding with them and letting them know they’re special,” from the date of conception. “For instance, my middle daughter was able to skip kindergarten, because she was so far ahead of the game – partly because of some of the things that I’m doing at home,” she says. “A lot of times, parents think that schools are the sole-responsible entity for educating our children, and it definitely starts at home, first.” As Powell sees it, every child is distinct, and only a parent knows the emotional soft-spots of a child. Teachers are not paid to parent, and are therefore limited in their abilities to reach children.

Powell believes that another element that plays a key-role in the mental development of young students is, communication. “Generations ago, when children were raised by the community, there was a neighbor involved with the children, – somebody was involved with the school – while holding the child accountable,” she says. “For me, I found that being at the school, and being a voice and an advocate for my children” has played a large role in their successes, “because they tend to fall through the cracks [if that voice is missing].”

Lisa Powell also believes that planning ahead helps one remain grounded and ready for the challenges that come with raising a child. Powell, who took a temporary retirement, to spend more time with her kids, understands, firsthand, how financially-challenging such a decision might be. Nevertheless, the future of the next generation must be protected at all costs, and “critical-thinking” can help parents strategize on the most feasibly successful plan to accomplish that objective.

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