More than a thousand business leaders gathered recently for the annual meeting of the Birmingham Business Alliance. And on the agenda was more than just lunch — While members were treated to plates full of food, they were also treated to an important message from renowned education reform advocate, Geoffrey Canada.
“We have to be prepared to help our kids, especially these kids in these troubled communities, gain a good sense of optimism,” says Canada.
As one of the nation’s leading innovators in education, Canada has successfully guided thousands of children from one of New York’s poorest neighborhoods, Harlem, from pre-K to college, one family and one block at a time. His belief?
“If you accept failure in these communities, you will get failure,” says Canada.
That’s why he says it’s the responsibility of all those sitting in the audience, to make sure that doesn’t happen.
And although Birmingham is a long way from Harlem, BBA’s Senior Vice President for Regional Development and Public Policy, Myla Calhoun Choy, says Canada’s ideas can be applied here to improve education in the city.
“He naturally came to mind when we looked at this as a topic for this year’s annual meeting… Just elevating the discussion, considering different ways, considering what we must do in order to provide our children with the opportunities that they deserve, how important that is for us to retain business here, how important that is for us to grow opportunity for the people here, is a message that I think resonated with our audience,” says Calhoun Choy.
And Canada says they can start to make a difference, simply by thinking outside the box.
“We have to innovate, which is why we’ve got to open up the doors, allow some different types of education experiences to happen and then judge them,” says Canada. “If they work fine, if they don’t work get rid of them. But we just can’t keep doing what hasn’t worked.”
Calhoun Choy hopes that BBA members were inspired by Canada’s energy and enthusiasm and will begin to think creatively about how they can come together as a community to help find and try new ways of educating children here in Birmingham.