“Dominique wants to be a teacher, Quasi wants to be a doctor, and Romeo is a future engineer,” says Ms. LaTasha Allen during a regular meeting with Ed staff as part of the Family Partnership Initiative. We talk in the dim light of the Christmas tree in the corner of the room that illuminates us and many Christmas cards strung over her fireplace. It’s a quiet night in Birmingham, but the pride in Ms. Allen’s heart fills the room.
“They love to read,” she continues. “All of my kids are so smart. They all went into kindergarten knowing how to read and write.” When asked how she keeps her children engaged in education, her answer is simple: “Prayer. Lots of prayer. I wish I could say it was easy, but it’s hard keeping them focused. It’s been a roller coaster keeping them on the right track.”
In conversation, Romeo confesses that he struggled in his classes in middle school because he didn’t take the initiative to ask for help and Ms. Allen says it is Romeo that she worries about the most, especially because of the risk of negative peer pressure from kids his age in their neighborhood. As an FPI family, Ms. Allen and Ed staff meet regularly to talk through ideas like this and connect Ms. Allen to people in the community that can help her attend to the individual needs of her students. As an aspiring engineer, Romeo will likely be connected to professionals in the industry that can help him pinpoint his interests and get hands-on experience that relates to and encourages his academic and professional pursuits.
Ms. Allen appreciates how important it is to keep her children in a supportive environment that instills in them the importance of education and responsibility, and she cultivates that in her household and in the relationship that she is building with Ed as an FPI participant. “I pray for strength,” she says, “So that I can strengthen them.”
Now, all of Ms. Allen’s children take their own initiative to ask their teachers for help when they are struggling. They all receive some form of tutoring from school or the public library. Ms. Allen sees this initiative as an expression of their independence, their strength of character, and their ambition.
I want them to have their diploma and to have the choice to go to college,” Allen says. “I tell them, ‘Don’t let anyone take the choice away from you to go to college. If you decide not to go it’s not because you can’t but because you made that choice.'”
The kids agree that while Ms. Allen is their mother first and foremost, she is also their teacher. Dominique, the youngest, clarifies this, saying, “Our mom wants us to know that we can get somewhere in life but we have to study and bring books home.” Quasi agrees, “She makes us bring books home to study subjects we are doing bad in. We study them hard all week, all of the time.”
Ms. Allen’s favorite approach to education is problem-solving, and she emphasizes that while a problem may only have one answer, there are multiple ways to arrive at the same place. It’s a skill that she believes is extremely useful in their studies and beyond. “I support every dream they have,” she adds, “they may hate me now for making them study, but professional careers require studying extensively, self-sacrifice and self-discipline. If they dream to have a professional career, then I will make them study. I will make sure they learn these values. It is not my job to live their life, but show them life.”
Ed wants to thank Ms. Allen for her partnership, for her time, and for sharing a small part of her life with us!