At Acceleration Academies, we believe in the fundamental value of each person, regardless of race, sex, age or economic circumstance. As a nationwide network of high school dropout re-engagement programs, we work every day to help our young learners — the majority of whom are African American and Latinx — to overcome not only their individual challenges, but also the burdens of a nation that has too often treated them and their loved ones as second-class citizens.
Like all people of conscience, we were left sickened and speechless by the death of George Floyd beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. The killings of Mr. Floyd and so many others reaffirm that this is not the time for silence; as peaceful protesters across the nation have shown, it is time to speak — and act.
I and other members of the Acceleration Academies leadership team want our colleagues and students to know that we share your grief, that we are committed to speaking for the value of your lives, and that we resolve to work in alliance with you to help turn this hateful tide. We appeal to other educators, students, political leaders and citizens to join us to make this painful chapter in American history not just a passing crisis — but instead the beginning of a lasting change in the way all people are heard and treated, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental and physical abilities or economic circumstance.
The senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others sound an undeniable call to act together against structural and institutional racism — no matter its shape. As an educational community dedicated to serving and supporting all children, we must strengthen our collective voice and disrupt the reality that our students and colleagues of color experience every day. As former President Barack Obama recently declared, it is our collective responsibility “to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”
We are proud to be an organization that since its inception has worked tirelessly to create opportunities for students — we call them “graduation candidates” (or GCs) to remind them of the goal they are working so hard to achieve — who had often found only frustration in traditional public schools. Continuing that work lies at the heart of our commitment to make something better out of the current crisis. But we also commit to additional concrete steps, including: expanding our program of community circles in which GCs and staff members can talk honestly about the pain of racism in their lives; launching an “#OwnYourVoice” campaign to give GCs and staff a platform to share their words of anguish, insight and hope; and exploring ways that Acceleration Academies can partner with organizations in our local communities and across the nation to advance the cause of racial, economic and educational justice. Those partnerships are still in development, but we will have specific news about them soon.
As educators, we will also ask ourselves some tough questions — Does our curriculum adequately reflect the oft-overlooked history of exclusion? Are we each doing enough to become aware of our own biases and work to overcome them? Can we do more to provide the next generation with the inspiration and skills they need to create a more just future for themselves, their communities and our nation? We will ask those questions and answer them with unflinching honesty and measurable action. We don’t begin to have all the answers, but we owe it to the memory of the victims and the futures of you and our GCs to seek them out.
Co-Founder and CEO