CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world.
(CNN) - What's the one thing you would tell girls about education?
Think carefully about your answer; after all, it can be the most important factor in lifting a girl from poverty, mistreatment and drudgery into a fulfilling and rewarding life, for both her and her family.
This is the question we asked people from around the world to share with us as part of the premiere of CNN Films' "Girl Rising," airing in June, which follows remarkable young girls from Peru to Afghanistan in their brave quest for an education.
CNN received dozens of responses, many from people sharing moving personal stories of their own struggles or those of mothers and grandmothers who had sacrificed so much so that future generations of girls would grow up enriched by knowledge.
'Never stop trying'
In a small town called Sivakasi in southern India, poverty and hardship meant many young girls would trudge every morning not to school but to work in the city's matchmaking and firework industries.
Follow @CNNschools on Twitter
(CNN) – Shweta Katti was raised in Mumbai's largest red-light district - the only place her family could afford to live. Men would sometimes ask her to sleep with them. But her mother always wanted her to learn to read and write, and Kranti, an organization that works with girls from Mumbai's red-light areas, helped her apply to college.
This fall, she's heading to Bard College in New York.
By Heather Sinclair Wood, CNN
Editor’s note: Heather Sinclair Wood is a writer-producer for the CNN Newsroom. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge, and a master’s degree in education from Mercer University in Georgia.
(CNN) – I’m a newswoman, tried and true. Journalist, news junkie, news hound, call me what you like. So when I decided three years ago to pursue a master’s degree in education, family and friends thought I was crazy. Having an advanced degree was something I had always wanted, so I figured why not earn a degree in a profession that I could possibly see myself doing one day? Two years of night classes and a few months as a student teacher seemed easy enough, and then I would have another career option under my belt. I thought of teacher and journalist as practically the same job – just a different audience.
So I embarked on the amazing journey, and a journey it was. But what I didn’t realize were the things I learned during my time as a student teacher in a suburban Atlanta middle school were eye-opening, humbling, and little did I know, would truly change my life and my job as a journalist forever. The way I see the world has changed dramatically, and I have a whole new appreciation for the profession that many take for granted.
Here are six lessons I learned when I jumped from one career to the classroom:
No matter how prepared you think you are, you’re not prepared
I was raised in the classroom of Mrs. Sinclair; my mother, a career educator, taught me everything I needed to know about life right from the realms of her school. My aunt is a teacher, my cousins and my sister. The love of teaching practically runs through my veins. So when graduate school required me to complete a four-month stint as a student teacher, I thought I was so ready. Years of papers, classroom observations and some of the best professors and peers a student could ask for equipped me for life in the classroom. But in reality, I’m not sure anyone can truly be prepared for what an actual classroom is like. I would have never considered myself a novice, but walking into that seventh-grade classroom in January was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.
Befriend the people who (really) matter
After nearly a decade in the news business, my first day at school came with all the nervous feelings any new job would have. Only this time, I actually had the petrifying power to alter a child’s life permanently. As I stuck my yellow visitor badge to my freshly ironed blouse, I was greeted with smiling faces and inquisitive looks. I know running through their minds were questions about why the “CNN lady” would want to be a teacher. They would soon find out that my passion for news carried over to my time as a teacher, too. I discovered almost instantly that the lunch ladies, custodians, secretaries, resource officers and librarians are the ones who keep a school running. Unlike CNN, where oftentimes you must look up the corporate ladder for help, schools operate as families in which every member, no matter his or her job status, plays a pivotal role in the operation of the school.
Middle schools can be war zones, as I found out, and you’re going to need some people in the trenches with you. Within my first two weeks, there was a broken nose incident, a chocolate pudding explosion and an index-card shortage that had me knocking on doors. I probably talked to the school principal only two or three times while I was there, but the men and women on staff became my heroes.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world. Watch it June 16 on CNN.
Detroit, Michigan (CNN) - A winter's thicket of weeds still choked the soil outside Catherine Ferguson Academy late last month when the old school's loudspeaker crackled on.
"Good morning, good morning, good morning," Principal Asenath Andrews belted out. "It's a bright, sunny, ready-to-garden day!"
For decades, this is where Detroit's pregnant teens and young mothers have come to earn their diplomas. It's the only school in the city that gives them space to study while their babies are cared for just down the hall.
For the 100 students at Catherine Ferguson, high school diplomas are the minimum expectation; college acceptance letters are the aim. It has a reputation for academic rigor and comprehensive study: Students might spend afternoons on internships, weeks traveling overseas and hours working small plots on the school's farm.
On the walls, there are posters encouraging condom use, photos of newborns and beaming images of Catherine Ferguson graduates, all in their gowns, caps and tassels.
"Remember," Andrews signs off her morning announcement, "smart is what you get, not what you are."
Girls trickle outside, grumbling about the heat and mess of the farm, but intrigued by the seedlings of basil, arugula and cabbage. They fling handfuls of dirt at each other as they paw through a season of overgrowth. Over the years, the school's abandoned playground evolved into a spread of apple trees, honeybees, chickens, goats and garden plots - creatures and greenery tended to by students and a pack of volunteers.
By Daphne Sashin, CNN
(CNN) – Sure, the audience at Harvard University's commencement ceremony was treated to a speech from Oprah Winfrey, and grads at other colleges got to hear life lessons from a who's who of politicians, scientists and artists.
But those moments could not compare to the preschool graduation performance at the First Family Early Learning Center in New Castle, Delaware, if excitement is any measure.
Each member of the graduating class was assigned to recite a poem or song for each letter of the alphabet to showcase all they had learned that year. ("D" for days of the week, "N" for numbers.)
Five-year-old Chase Winters had practiced his lines for weeks. When it was time for letter "K," Chase, dressed in tan pants and vest, along with a matching blue shirt and tie, approached the microphone and looked out into the crowd. His mom, Danielle, waited anxiously in the crowd.
"K is for kindergarten, we start in the fall; When we started preschool, we were very small; we're much bigger now, look how tall; so it's off to kindergarten in the fall."
"In that moment, I was filled with so many emotions," Danielle wrote on CNN iReport. "Proud that he had done a great job, surprised at how mature he has become, and sad that my baby is quickly growing up!"
By Lauren Russell, CNN
(CNN) - While most of the nation's students are enjoying summer break, teachers in a handful of states are studying – not their fall curriculum, but how to take out an assailant.
In Ohio, Buckeye Firearms Association, a gun rights PAC, has launched a program to educate teachers on how to take down a gunman.
"We were mocked when we first said we wanted to teach this class," Jim Irvine, president of Buckeye, said. "People doubted if we could fill the class."
Yet more than 1,400 school staff members applied for the 24 spots first offered in late December, he said.
Interest in arming teachers has grown among some school staff, gun rights groups and lawmakers in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 students – ages 6 and 7 – and six adults were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14.
Photos: Teachers pose with their guns
Gun rights groups have sponsored classes for teachers in a number of states from Texas to Ohio.
By Nova Safo, CNN
Chicago, Illinois (CNN) – When Chicago students return to school after summer break, they will do so in 48 fewer elementary schools. The city is closing a record number of schools to deal with a $1 billion budget shortfall.
The closures are just the latest in a string of public school closings around the country, according to Emily Dowdall of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Dowdall has been looking into the causes of public school closures:
[4:08] "And those are a decline in the school-age population, the rise in charter school enrollment, and finally, tight budgets that are forcing districts to act."
In Chicago, the schools that are being closed are in mostly African-American neighborhoods, where the recession has hit hard. Lack of jobs and rising crime have driven out many middle class families, and their school-aged kids have gone with them.
At the same time, public schools have lost even more students to charter schools, which are growing rapidly.
For Asean Johnson, a charismatic 9-year-old student who attended a protest against Chicago school closings, the fight to save his school was about keeping him and his friends safe. Many parents and students are worried about longer walks to schools farther away, in which they would have to cross dangerous gang lines:
[:41]“I’m worried about my school friends' safety. I’m worried about everybody’s safety. Because, I do not want anybody to die.”
By Paul Caron, CNN
(CNN) – When Alissa Parker first heard there was a shooting at her 6-year-old daughter’s school, she immediately thought of the building’s security weaknesses and wished she’d spoken up.
“Knowing the location of where Emilie’s classroom was, if anyone gained access to that building, I knew that my child was very vulnerable,” she said.
Parker’s daughter, Emilie, was among 20 first-graders killed in the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Six months since then, parents, school leaders and lawmakers around the country have raised questions about how to make schools more secure. Many schools reacted by immediately increasing security personnel and hiring consultants to assess their security plans. An Education Week analysis found nearly 400 bills related to school safety filed in the months after the deadliest K-12 school shooting in U.S. history; legislators proposed arming teachers and adding guards or police officers. Many proposed shoring up the security of school buildings.
Parker and other Sandy Hook parents started the Safe and Sound, an initiative to help communities improve their school security plans.
As parents gathered information after the shooting, they realized schools all over the country are vulnerable, said Michele Gay, whose 7-year-old daughter, Josephine, was also killed at Sandy Hook.
“One line of defense is all they had, and once that is penetrated, anything can happen. That is the problem with most schools,” Gay said. “We are about empowering folks … gathering everybody at the table – local police, fire, custodians, teachers and when appropriate, students. Everyone needs to be at the table to make it work.”
After the Sandy Hook shootings, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed new gun regulations into law and created the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, a 16-member public safety panel set to make recommendations about school safety, mental health and gun violence.
In its preliminary recommendations, the commission suggested:
– Requiring that all K-12 classrooms be equipped with doors that can be locked from the inside by the classroom teacher.
– Requiring that all exterior doors in K-12 schools be equipped with hardware capable of a full-perimeter lockdown.
– Creating a panel of design and security experts to establish, within 12 months, recommendations for safe design.
But what might make those buildings safer?
By Van Jones, CNN Contributor
Editor's note: Van Jones, a CNN contributor, is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform focusing on policy, economics and media. He was President Barack Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009. He is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy. Follow him on Twitter: @VanJones68.
(CNN) - The student debt fight is back - with a vengeance.
Once again, current students are facing the possibility of interest rates on Stafford Federal student loans doubling.
Once again, we are asking what our leaders are doing about a crisis that gets worse every year.
Once again, the answer is: Not much.
It is the only form of household debt that has continued to rise during the Great Recession. It is also the only form of debt that cannot be discharged under bankruptcy or even death, as parents who have lost children have discovered to their horror. It is preventing young people from buying homes and starting businesses.
In short, student debt is a $1.1 trillion anvil dragging down the entire U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, the conversation in Washington is not about big fixes, but simply how to avoid making matters worse by letting interest rates rise.
CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world. Watch June 16 on CNN
By Betsy Anderson, CNN
(CNN) – Eulalia goes to school on a motorcycle.
The 10-year-old girl lives in the Puno region of Peru with her parents and six siblings. There is no school near Eulalia's home, so on Mondays, her father gives her a ride down the mountain on his motorcycle to a boarding school run by the humanitarian organization CARE. She attends school during the week and comes home on the weekends.
For Eulalia, this ride to school is a journey into a promising future that is hard to come by in Peru. She is one of nearly a million indigenous children who struggle to get an education.
According to CARE, 73% of indigenous kids in Peru are behind in school for their age and nearly 30% don't go to school at all. Most people in the Puno region live in poverty and parents have no choice but to have their children work to help support the family. Child labor is often used for illegal gold mining in the area.
Eulalia's father is a poor alpaca shepherd, but he wants his daughter to have a better education than he had and he has made it a priority. The school doesn't charge Eulalia's family for school fees, but her parents try to contribute in other ways such as with crops or labor. Soon, her little brother will also be attending the school.