Letter to My Younger Self
By Dr. Nosakhere Griffin-EL
Hello Nos, it is me, I mean you. Your older self. I know you are mad right now because you will be in the 7th grade for the second time. P.S. you get left down again in 9th grade too. You will struggle with reading all throughout middle and high school, but years later you will teach children how to read. Whatever you do, do not give up hope! I know you have and will continue to skip school every other Friday. Yes, school is boring, and you hate it! You are on the verge of giving up all hope, but you will meet some folks who change your heart and mind.
Next year, you make it to the 8th grade and will be in Mrs. Lee’s class. She is a lady, who believes in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Crazy right! She is not like those adults from 7th grade who constantly told you that you would be dead or locked up before you turned 18 years old. Guess what, they were wrong!
Yup, I am writing you as a 37-year-old man, who’s been married for 7 years to an amazing wife and has two amazing sons. I traveled to over 13 African countries and worked as a professor in South Africa for 3 years.
Back to Mrs. Lee, she is going to give you a chance to build your dream in class. Mrs. Lee does not teach you like you are incapable of thinking. She gives you the space to discuss complex ideas and charges you to read more. You will tell her about your dream of becoming a journalist. She charges you to start the school newspaper, and you do it!
Down the hall from your classroom, there is a cool teacher name Mr. El-Mekki, who is one of the only Black male teachers you encounter in public school experience. He is going to use his contacts to arrange your first interview for the school newspaper. You will interview the head basketball coach of Temple University. Cool right! You are making progress because you didn’t give up.
You go to high school and have ups and downs, but there is a teacher named Ms. Simmonds, who believes in you! She never gives up on you. She does not see you as a below basic test score — she sees you as having the power and potential to be great. She is going to create an educational experience where you can develop your voice. Amazing right? She is going to teach you how to use your voice on the school newspaper. She is going to hold you to high standards and encourage you to be responsible for making your dream happen. It’s going to be hard, but don’t give up!
In the summer of your junior year, you enroll in Philadelphia Freedom Schools. You meet Dr. Greg Carr, who teaches you about the importance of intellectual development. Dr. Imani, Kenny, and Dr. Sparrow-Mickens will train you in the art of servant leadership. Freedom Schools will expose you to veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, who will teach you how to assist in the development of a better world.
This summer is life changing! You feel like you finally got yourself together, but your D- grade point average will not get you into college. But a man named Mr. Edwards from Lincoln University will give you a chance.
I have some bad news for you. You know how much you love baseball? You give it up because you want to make a difference in the world. You’ll begin to focus on your academics. There are two professors named Dr. Poe and Dr. Gooden who will help you. They are going to teach you the important academic skills to succeed in college and graduate school. You will spend long hours in the library reading and studying, but don’t worry, this experience will be the foundation for your academic success.
Your time at Lincoln will be amazing! You are elected to the student body presidency as a write in candidate. You will lead a transformation on campus that promotes academic excellence and cultural inclusion. You serve on the Lincoln University Board of Trustees, where you learn how to serve and make structural changes through policy. You will leave Lincoln ready to change the world. A few months after graduating, you enroll at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education to pursue your dream. You will graduate with a Ph.D. and work as a professional to transform society through education.
A few years later, an opportunity will arise to run for school board director in the city of Pittsburgh. You are running because you believe in public education. You are running because you believe that all children should have the opportunity to build and pursue their dreams. You are running because you remember educators in your life that inspired you to make the world better. You are running because you believe that students should not only have a voice at the policy table, but they should have a vote too. You are running because you believe in the power of parents to shape meaningful policy within the school and district.
Nosakhere, I do not know the results of the race, but you win regardless. You win because throughout life you never gave up hope. You win because you have answered the call to assist in the development of a better world through education! I just want to say just hang in there never give up hope because the future is bright!
Dr. Nosakhere Griffin-EL