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Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum
Find Me Unafraid tells the uncommon love story between two uncommon people whose collaboration sparked a successful movement to transform the lives of vulnerable girls and the urban poor. With a Foreword by Nicholas Kristof.This is the story of two young people from completely different worlds: Kennedy Odede from Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, and Jessica Posner from Denver, Colorado. Kennedy foraged for food, lived on the street, and taught himself to read with old newspapers. When an American volunteer gave him the work of Mandela, Garvey, and King, teenaged Kennedy decided he was going to change his life and his community. He bought a soccer ball and started a youth empowerment group he called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). Then in 2007, Wesleyan undergraduate Jessica Posner spent a semester abroad in Kenya working with SHOFCO. Breaking all convention, she decided to live in Kibera with Kennedy, and they fell in love.Their connection persisted, and Jessica helped Kennedy to escape political violence and fulfill his lifelong dream of an education, at Wesleyan University.The alchemy of their remarkable union has drawn the support of community members and celebrities alike - The Clintons, Mia Farrow, and Nicholas Kristof are among their fans - and their work has changed the lives of many of Kibera’s most vulnerable population: its girls. Jess and Kennedy founded Kibera’s first tuition-free school for girls, a large, bright blue building, which stands as a bastion of hope in what once felt like a hopeless place. But Jessica and Kennedy are just getting started - they have expanded their model to connect essential services like health care, clean water, and economic empowerment programs. They’ve opened an identical project in Mathare, Kenya’s second largest slum, and intend to expand their remarkably successful program for change.Ultimately this is a love story about a fight against poverty and hopelessness, the transformation made possible by a true love, and the power of young people to have a deep impact on the world.
The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal
Labeled "dyslexic and profoundly learning disabled," Jonathan Mooney was a short-bus rider - a derogatory term used for kids in special education. To learn how others had moved beyond labels, he bought his own short bus and set out cross-country, looking for kids who had dreamed up magical, beautiful ways to overcome the obstacles that separated them from the so-called normal world. The Short Bus is his irreverent and poignant record of that odyssey, meeting thirteen people in thirteen states who taught Mooney that there’s no such thing as normal - and that to really live, every person must find their own special way of keeping on. The Short Bus is a unique gem, propelled by Mooney’s heart, humor, and outrageous rebellions.
Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship
A memoir of race, inequality, and the power of literature told through the life-changing friendship between an idealistic young teacher and her gifted student, jailed for murder in the Mississippi DeltaRecently graduated from Harvard University, Michelle Kuo arrived in the rural town of Helena, Arkansas, as a Teach for America volunteer, bursting with optimism and drive. But she soon encountered the jarring realities of life in one of the poorest counties in America, still disabled by the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. In this stirring memoir, Kuo, the child of Taiwanese immigrants, shares the story of her complicated but rewarding mentorship of one student, Patrick Browning, and his remarkable literary and personal awakening.Convinced she can make a difference in the lives of her teenaged students, Michelle Kuo puts her heart into her work, using quiet reading time and guided writing to foster a sense of self in students left behind by a broken school system. Though Michelle loses some students to truancy and even gun violence, she is inspired by some such as Patrick. Fifteen and in the eighth grade, Patrick begins to thrive under Michelle’s exacting attention. However, after two years of teaching, Michelle feels pressure from her parents and the draw of opportunities outside the Delta and leaves Arkansas to attend law school.Then, on the eve of her law-school graduation, Michelle learns that Patrick has been jailed for murder. Feeling that she left the Delta prematurely and determined to fix her mistake, Michelle returns to Helena and resumes Patrick’s education - even as he sits in a jail cell awaiting trial. Every day for the next seven months they pore over classic novels, poems, and works of history. Little by little, Patrick grows into a confident, expressive writer and a dedicated reader galvanized by the works of Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Walt Whitman, W. S. Merwin, and others. In her time reading with Patrick, Michelle is herself transformed, contending with the legacy of racism and the questions of what constitutes a “good” life and what the privileged owe to those with bleaker prospects.
Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools
In this revealing and provocative memoir, the former chancellor of the New York City schools offers the behind-the-scenes story of the city’s dramatic campaign to improve public education and an inspiring blueprint for national reform.In 2002 New York City’s newly elected mayor, Michael Bloomberg, made a historic announcement: his administration had won control of the city’s school system in a first step toward reversing its precipitous decline. In a controversial move, he appointed Joel Klein, an accomplished lawyer from outside the education establishment, to lead this ambitious campaign.Lessons of Hope is Klein’s inside account of his eight-year mission of improvement: demanding accountability, eliminating political favoritism, and battling a powerful teachers union that seemed determined to protect a status quo that didn’t work for kids. Klein’s initiatives resulted in more school choice, higher graduation rates, and improved test scores. The New York City model is now seen as a national standard for meaningful school reform. But the journey was not easy. Klein faced resistance and conflict at every turn.Lessons of Hope lays bare the problems plaguing public education and shows how they can be solved. At its core lies Klein’s personal story: his humble upbringing in Brooklyn and Queens, and the key role that outstanding public school teachers played in nurturing his success. Engaging and illuminating, Lessons of Hope is essential reading for anyone concerned about the future of American public education.
Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve
When American journalist Lenora Chu moved to Shanghai with her little boy, Rainey, just down the street from the state-run school - the best, as far as elite Chinese were concerned - she faced an important decision: Should she entrust her rambunctious young son to the Chinese public schools?It seemed like a good idea at the time, and so began Rainey’s immersion in one of the most radical school systems on the planet. Almost immediately, the three-year-old began to develop surprising powers of concentration and became proficient in early math. Yet Chu also noticed disturbing new behaviors: Whereas he used to scribble and explore, Rainey was now obsessed with staying inside the lines. He became fearful of authority figures. "If you want me to do it, I’ll do it," he told a stranger who had asked whether he liked to sing.Driven by parental concern, Chu embarked on an investigative mission: What price do the Chinese pay to produce their "smart" kids, and what lessons might Western parents and educators learn from this system? In her search for answers, Chu followed Chinese students, teachers, and experts, pulling back the curtain on a military-style education system in which even the youngest kids submit to high-stakes tests and parents are crippled by the pressure to compete. Yet as Chu delved deeper, she discovered surprising upsides, such as the benefits of memorization, competition as a motivator, and the Chinese cultural belief in hard work over innate talent.Lively and intimate, beautifully written and reported, Little Soldiers asks us to reconsider the true value and purpose of education, as China and the West compete for the political and economic dominance of a new generation.
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