I have been asked an impertinent question with a very pertinent answer. How does Kennett make America great? I believe our goal is described in the Declaration of Independence; “All men are created equal; all are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
There are steps to accomplish this that are above our pay grade but we can see how it has worked over our history. One of the greatest roadblocks to achieving this goal is poverty. If you are poor and don’t have 3 square meals, adequate housing, and health care you can only achieve some reflection of the promise of our forefathers.
It is not until a person earns about $75,000 a year that more money won’t make them happier. At the turn of the 20th Century the poorest demographic in the country was the senior--old age incurred unemployment, illness, disability, and then death.
In 1935 FDR addressed this problem with Social Security and later we had Medicare so that today the poorest segment of society is not the senior, but the kids. We haven’t completely solved the senior thing because they are living 30 years longer, but the big problem is a high number of public school kids are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
First we have to fight “Self-Oriented Behavior.” (SOB) If everyone is focused on only himself or herself, we will never address the big issues of poverty, global warming and world peace. We need to want to be successful as a community. There is a 1968 essay on this topic by Garrett Hardin "The Tragedy of the Commons.” It makes the point that we need to partner, share, and sacrifice.
Joan Holliday and I found in writing our book “The Story of Kennett- Shaping the Future One Child at a Time” that Kennett has the child as its top priority. We want to get the child right. That sounds good when you say it fast but what does it mean?
The goal of individual success was described by the great teacher and coach John Wooden. “Success is peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.”
To reach this level of self-actualization in our children, you must meet the foundation of their physiological and safety needs first. This means we need a good safety net of food, housing, healthcare along with a strong and well-trained security (police) force.
Almost half of Kennett’s budget goes towards a police force that makes all the inhabitants feel safe. In the past, Kennett Township has been the safest municipality in the State. The other infrastructure needs are also part of the community. The Food Cupboard (KACS) provides the extra week of food for families that don’t get enough help with the current food stamp program. KACS also addresses housing. LCH (La Comunidad Hispana) Community Health Center provides healthcare with the help of Medicaid for the disadvantaged.
That is just the foundation, there is so much more that has to be done if you don’t want to perpetuate generational poverty. It starts with the school district. There needs to be a commitment to every child, that you will meet them where they are and provide them an education that will excite them, challenge them and speak to their condition. That means you have to resource the school, which is easier said than done.
Kennett struggles at times but with the help of the teachers, administration and tax payers we are getting it done. That is still the tip of the iceberg. You have to deal with the whole system, so it takes a partnership with the student, community, parents and school to lift each child into the future.
Almost half the kids coming into the Kennett system are not kindergarten ready and we have to put a full court press on getting kids into preschool so they can matriculate into all-day kindergarten to be at peer level by first grade.
Many kids are born on 3rd base and walk home and think they hit a home run. But lots of kids are at bat with two outs and two strikes and spend their life trying to catch up. Ask your town what percent of the 3rd graders are working at peer level?
Within the Kennett schools system there are programs to build language skills, programs to challenge each segment of kids to be the best American they can be, and programs to use the after school time to get kids working at or above peer level. There is The Garage Community Youth Center programs for senior high, AP and college courses, Boy Scouts, sports, music, theatre and opportunities to volunteer.
When a student graduates from the local schools, we expect them to have the capability and confidence to take on the world and continue to be the best of which they are capable. They are on equal footing with their peers, with maybe a little more swagger, knowing how far they’ve come.
Now, that is how Kennett does it. Different communities will have different challenges but in the end every year we graduate an army of capable citizens that will go out and create wealth, safety and happiness for their family, community, their country and themselves. There was only one other kid, besides my father, in the high school class in West Texas that went off to college and that was 1934, the Greatest Generation. We have come a long way, but if we can get past self-oriented behavior, we have a chance. We can do this, reduce the effects of poverty on the kids, and if we don’t, who will?