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The Hilltop

OPINION

Creating the Next Generation of Leaders: The 2016 Presidential Election & My Classroom

By Lexis White, Special To The Hilltop
Posted 12:55 PM EST, Mon., Nov. 14, 2016

Writer’s Note: Lexis White is a Howard University Class of 2015 graduate. She currently teaches in Harlem, N.Y. at Success Academy as a 6th grade ELA teacher through Teach For America.  

For many Howard students, November marked the first time they casted a ballot in a presidential election.

As a recent Howard grad and sixth grade teacher in New York City, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this election and how it will be retold in my students’ history books. Fifty years from now, we will look back on this time—the segregation, the racism, the xenophobia, the inequity—and we will tell our children, and our children’s children, that we lived it.

What we say to them next is up to us. And that is why I decided to become a teacher. As a senior at Howard, I served as a mentor for young girls in D.C. through Jewels Incorporated. I have always loved learning, and I wanted to foster that same drive in others. Through my undergraduate experiences, I realized that if I was going to be a part of shaping our nation’s future, I first needed to understand the issues up close. Choosing to make an immediate impact in my home community of Harlem, and helping students feel proud of their education seemed like a perfect step after graduation.  

Now that I’m a teacher, I realize that the future of our country lies squarely in my classroom. Every day that I teach, I grow more convinced of my students’ boundless potential and am eager for the day when they’re charting the path of our country. I think of Moses, who has an unmatched passion for science. He’s working towards becoming an engineer, and his hard work and dedication show me every day that he’ll get there. My scholars understand that what they do in the classroom is far more important than just an assignment. They know that if they don’t become change agents, there is a possibility they will lose the freedoms that their ancestors have fought for. It’s these moments that turn my previous hope into my current conviction.

Moving forward, we must ensure our country’s moral arc continues bending towards justice for all. We can do that by showing our students real-world examples of leaders who look and sound like them—thanks, Obama. And secondly, we must empower our children to become the next generation of leaders.

So when we think about how this election will go down in history, we have two choices: We can tell the next generation that we lived it, and we couldn’t find the answers. That we didn’t have the courage to disrupt the systems and structures that sustain inequality and injustice. That we lived it, and we didn’t take up the challenge.

Or we can tell them that we lived it, and we changed it.

As you consider how you’ll make your impact after graduation, I ask you to think beyond yourself. Don’t just be a leader. Let’s create the next generation of leaders.

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