The following is a guest blog from BBA President Carol Starkey on her experience participating in the Boston Plan for Excellence Principal for a Day program:
Promoting civic education is one of the values I hold dear in my role of public service as President of the Boston Bar Association. I believe it is our responsibility as lawyers to engage in the mentorship and civic education of our inner city youth, helping them to understand the foundational principles of what it means to be a citizen in our American democracy. So when I was invited to participate in the Boston Plan for Excellence Principal for a Day Program, an annual initiative to promote Boston’s inner city schools through the engagement of business and civic leaders, I jumped at the chance.
On November 17, 2016, one week after the Presidential election, I visited a school in South Boston known as UP Academy Boston, where I shadowed Principal Katy Buckland for an entire morning. Principal Buckland is a 30 year old professional who deeply impressed me with her enthusiasm, intellectual leadership and compassion while she gave me a tour of the school under her care of first through eighth graders. On a daily basis, Principal Buckland overcomes challenges of providing a safe environment for all of her students, while assisting her teachers and colleagues in providing a quality education to children distracted by surviving on low incomes, witnessing violence in the streets and sometimes in their homes, or understanding – and not in a good way – what it means to identify as a minority.
But I left that school feeling invigorated and hopeful, not only because of the dedication and wisdom of the Principal I shadowed that day, but because I saw the hope and excitement in the faces of all of the children under her care, embracing their class room lessons and teachers with trust and enthusiasm. It takes the innocence of our youth to remind us that we are all grappling with what it means to fit into society – to obtain and retain our rights as citizens – to achieve and develop dreams while overcoming challenges. And isn’t that at the heart of what it means to be a lawyer – to help others through challenges – to advance the principles from which we can all live and work together?
I wish all of our members at the bar could have shadowed a Principal for a day in our great city of Boston. It was an important reminder that as lawyers, we can and must be mentors for our youth, and perhaps more importantly, we must be educators as well.