Thursday, November 27, 2014


BVP Giving Thanks Blog Series- Part V

Two years ago, I published this Thanksgiving Musing.  Last year, we shared these words of thanks.  Looking for the right inspiration for my blog this year, I re-read these notes, and the heartfelt thoughts of musings by others for 2014.  

Personally, life is pretty extraordinary.  I have three amazing children and a wonderful wife who keeps our family together and still manages to advance her own career, all while supporting my efforts to lead BVP.  I will save the endless celebrations of my own family for my Thanksgiving dinner table, but should be said: I am most thankful for my family.

Professionally, I am thankful for the “wins” BVP continues to achieve for its scholars.  From grants to buildings, from academic accolades to amazing individual stories of perseverance, I know that we are doing right by our scholars.  Indeed, I am thankful to be part of such a remarkable, award-winning team of teachers, leaders, and support professionals.  Moreover, our families and scholars themselves have been tremendously supportive of our work in myriad ways, from volunteerism to giving, from public service to retweeting.

I am particularly grateful my two eldest are growing up at BVP.  We are part of a school community where I know and see that my kids are being pushed to be their very best.  More importantly, I know that Katie and Jack (and soon Mollie) will have a diverse learning and life experience.  This diversity, I truly believe, will propel them and their classmates to social success in ways that we have yet to understand or even imagine.

This year, I am also thankful for a life full of serendipity.  I grew up in a zip code that is decidedly middle class, where we didn’t lock our doors at night and all the kids played at the local playground until dark (without fear of our parents being arrested, or quite frankly any fears at all).  I was able to attend a very good Catholic school because of my parents’ desire that my sister and I obtain the best education they could afford.  I learned about the Pennsylvania Governor’s Schools through socially connected neighbors who told my family about the program, which set me on a path to attend the University of Pennsylvania.  As a first-year teacher in New York City, my first paycheck did not arrive until Thanksgiving, but I was able to make ends meet because of family support and access to credit.  All of this, coupled with lots of hard work, has set up me for great successes throughout my career, and for all of this I am thankful.

I could end my blog entry here, and that’s probably what I should do.  But, I would not be sharing my truest thoughts this Thanksgiving, and I owe it to anyone still reading to give a little more depth.

In light of the Black Friday shopping that starts for millions in just a few hours, on Thanksgiving day, I find myself, somewhat guiltily, thankful for my economic status.  I can buy presents without needing to get up at ungodly early hours and fight lines to buy items that I can only afford when put deeply on sale.  Indeed, I can just go to Amazon and, for the most part, buy the things that I want (within reason...I’m no Powerball winner).  Perhaps more importantly, I have employment that does not compel me to interrupt time during this great family holiday in order to head in for a retail job.  Many family members and friends actually resent this and other holidays because of this stress.  While I have the chance to take that post-turkey nap on a couch in front of a mediocre football game on TV, millions will be heading in at 4PM on Thanksgiving Day (or earlier) to go to work.

In light of the recent events and grand jury decision in Ferguson, today I find myself thankful that, because of my race, I don’t need to live in fear for my son Jackson as he grows up.  This is not to say that many white Americans don’t have very difficult lives; this is not to say that whites are not arrested improperly or subject to police brutality.  But, as a parent of a boy, I am thankful that his odds of accessing the American Dream are not deterred because of his race (read sobering stats here, here, or here).  Indeed, in daily conversations with friends and colleagues (many at BVP) I do not worry about my son in the same way that many of my non-white friends worry...and to say that they “worry” is an understatement.   

That decades after Dr. King’s assassination we are still “dreaming” is embarrassing.  That decades after the Brown v. Board of Education decision our nation’s schools are more segregated than ever is alarming.  

But, through all of this, it is our work at BVP that gives me hope for a better future.  We are poised at BVP, because of our intentional diversity, to help create future leaders who not only tolerate diverse backgrounds, but also acknowledge diversity, appreciate diversity, celebrate diversity, and eagerly seek out diversity.  

This year, in 2014, I am thankful that I am part of a team that is creating hope for a much better future.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Jeremy Chiappetta is the Executive Director of Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, a founding member of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools.  Follow him on Twitter @chiachess.

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