As a child, I was first exposed to the inequities of our society. I grew up in the metro-Detroit area and received a top-tier public education. This paved the way for me to go on to the University of Michigan and earn my bachelors and masters degrees there. Attending a university like U of M gave me the necessary tools to complete an internship at the Democratic National Committee, the White House, and now, Michigan’s Children.
All of this is to say, without the amazing k-12 public education that I received as a child, my life would have turned out to be incredibly different. I would not have been prepared to take on the rigors of a world-class university, which would have made it much less likely that I would end up sitting here writing this blog post. I was lucky. Due to the circumstances of my birth, I was placed in a district that had an abundance of resources for me to draw on. I even got the chance to learn Chinese and go with my 8th-grade class on a trip to China. Just 20 miles down the road, however, kids are receiving an education devoid of the basic resources necessary for them to succeed.
These kids also attend a public school, which does not even have enough textbooks for each student. The ones they do have are outdated. The building is not completely heated in the wintertime. Very few of these kids have ever left their neighborhood, much less the state of Michigan or the country. Worse still, an 18-year-old student is set to graduate, and she cannot spell the name of her own street. Last year, I was an AmeriCorps VISTA working in the Detroit Public Schools, and I witnessed these things firsthand. These kids wanted to succeed so badly, but in these conditions, it was near impossible to do so. How can you do well enough on a standardized test to gain admission into college if you cannot even spell the name of your street? This was a monumental failure on the part of our state, the place where I was born and raised, and the place that I love.
In this great state of ours, how is this dichotomy in public education allowed to persist? By allowing it to continue, we are perpetuating a cycle of class stagnation and hopelessness amongst the most vulnerable amongst us. By depriving so many kids of a quality education, we are stopping them from achieving their true potential. This is not something that I want to stand idly by and watch happen, so I decided to do what I could to ensure that the next generation will not have to experience this same vast dichotomy.
For the summer, I decided to take a research internship with the amazing organization, Michigan’s Children. They are incredibly committed to making a difference in the lives of our state’s children, which is what drew me to them in the first place. As a student of public policy, I know that legislation and advocacy are the avenues by which we can enact truly meaningful change. I’m hoping that my research of how to best provide education funding to impoverished students will assist Michigan’s Children in their advocacy work, and ultimately, lead to a state that provides all of its kids with the necessary resources to succeed.
Ryan Bartholomew is a summer intern for Michigan’s Children. He is currently a master’s student at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, where he also received his bachelor’s degree. Ryan’s background is in domestic policy and American electoral politics, and he hopes to go on to earn a Ph.D. in political science.