After Five and The Next 100: Building Democracy

Faith SandlerCommunity, Democracy, Education, Impact, Leadership, Words of Faith

We are tired and we are moved. Today is a somber day in St. Louis, marking five years since the police shooting of Michael Brown, Jr. on a quiet street in Ferguson on a Saturday morning. Actions and reflections are underway, intended to remind all of us that we are not truly free until all are free. While we look back at our history, we are even more anxious to build a healthier community that will invite all to support and sustain democracy.

The work of The Scholarship Foundation requires hope that change is possible and faith that young people are ready to lead. We’ve just concluded six new student awards ceremonies in five different venues. In the coming year, 550 students will attend school with interest-free loans and grants from the Foundation. We have seen the spark in their eyes and the dreams of their families ignited. We’ve dared to look ahead to the next 100 years of The Scholarship Foundation, knowing that our students will be called upon by a society in desperate need of their brilliance.

And we are ready. More importantly, we can report that they are ready.

Ours is a simple recipe with powerful impact. Education, accompanied by leadership and engagement, will fortify democracy.  That is what our founding mothers espoused in 1920 and it remains true today. Teaching, learning, and community building are linked (read an explanation by another blogger here: Pedagogy and Politics).

Let us begin, together, as learners. We were born, as an organization, out of community response to religious and ethnic oppression and impending genocide in Eastern Europe. We have grown over the intervening century to understand how powerful learning can be. It is clear that denial of opportunity to learn is dangerous to individuals and toxic to communities.

Economic and racial equity will find firmest footing in educational opportunity. Leadership and engagement begin and grow by collective conscience and constant learning. The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis benefits by a community that clearly understands the power of education.

May the memory of Michael Brown, Jr. and all who have fallen in the five years since, be for a blessing.

May the love of learning and the insistence that our neighbors be free fuel us.

And together may we rise in a community that is by and for the people.

No matter how long it takes.

– Faith Sandler