Imagine with me for a minute that every high school graduating class from this point forward has all young men of color exceptionally prepared to carry and shape society’s mantle. These graduates would exemplify what it means to be literate in the 21st century, taking their rightful place in local, national, and global communities. We would then say, “There goes our Young, Gifted and Literate.”The Young, Gifted and Literate graduate reads and writes well across a wide range of disciplines; speaks eloquently with passion and conviction; embraces the new digital literacies as tools to innovate; and serves as a model of social and emotional maturity. This young male reads from Shakespeare and Frederick Douglas with equanimity. He embraces multiple languages that reflect the diversity in society. And, he has a firm grasp on what it means to be young, gifted and Black/Latino in America. Developing the Young, Gifted and Literate requires Pre-K to 12 teachers and mentors who offer critical supports without apology to nurture academic as well as social and emotional growth. These critical supports would counter home, community, school and societal stresses that often take young men off of their pathway to success. The teacher and mentor recognize that the links between academic and social and emotional wellness are inseparable. The young males who are fortunate enough to have such teachers and mentors would offer, “My education has prepared me for my future. I am bound for great things. I am ready to give back to my community and to use my talents to help someone along the way. I realize now that education is more than a rehearsal for life. It is life.
There are schools, with principals and leaders dedicated to doing just that, addressing the emotional and intellectual needs of thes young men. We need to hear their message and learn their strategies.We need to find and develop outstanding teachers so that they can ensure that the future belongs to these young people.