Build a better future for Aurora’s children
hen I arrived in this country in 1998, my first job was stocking shelves at the iconic Tattered Cover book store. It was with the vast menu of books and audiotapes there that I taught myself to read and speak English.
Since then, I’ve risen to become a vice president at BBVA Compass, and branch manager at Wells Fargo and Key Bank.
The American dream is alive and well for me. But as a community leader in the African immigrant community, the fastest growing population in Aurora, I fear for the next generation.
With the poor state of Aurora Public Schools (APS), the American dream is beginning to dim for many students, regardless of background.
The city of Aurora has become split into two: one for students in Cherry Creek School District, which has some of the best schools in the country, and one for students in APS, with some of the worst.
The graduation rate in APS is an abysmal 55 percent, and only one in 10 students is prepared for college after graduating from APS high schools. Even for gifted and talented students, the graduation rate is a shockingly low 72 percent. That cannot be allowed to continue. I speak to families every day who are growing increasingly concerned that their children are being left behind. If a student does not graduate high school, there are very little options for him to succeed in life.
These students are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to get in trouble with the law, and far less likely to accomplish the great things their parents dream for them.
Having been a board member of a charter school where my children attend, I know there are ways we can provide the children and parents in Aurora with more options.
We do not have to accept that our schools are failing and stand by without doing anything. We can work together to create a better future for our children.
While I do not have all the answers for how to fix the schools in APS, I do know we can’t continue along this path.
I urge the school board and leaders in APS to do whatever it takes to turn things around.
We must work together to create a better future for our children. We must work to build a better school system that finds and develops the potential found inside every student.
While some find the diversity of APS — there are more than 130 languages spoken by students — to be a challenge, I believe it is an opportunity. We should embrace our diversity as a strength.
If the school district needs to pass a bond to build more schools, we as a community should stand behind that.
If closing failing schools and opening new ones helps improve the education of our children, we as a community should support that.
If bringing more charter schools into the city is the right path for our students, we as a community should support that.
I don’t have all the answers, but as a parent and a leader in the African immigrant community, I do know we need to stand behind bold changes. If we don’t, we will fail our children. And that is an option we cannot accept. Papa Dia is president of the African Leadership Group.