Students Must Know and Share Our Belief in Their Potential

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Dr. Bernard Harris speaking at York Early College Academy in Queens, NY.

I share three core beliefs when I speak with students: I believe every student is born multi-potentialed; I believe every student is born multi-talented; and I believe every student is born for a reason.

I share these things because I want students to know they are born with the makings of greatness and that they, as much as anyone else, are responsible for determining what they do with their potential and their innate talents.

It is our shared responsibility as adults to support, empower, challenge and inspire students to their highest potentials.

It is, of course, true that there are forces working for and against students, particularly those students whose families have few resources. Those forces weigh heavily on whether students reach their potentials, but I caution against focusing exclusively on those challenges without reminding students that they have a shared responsibility for determining their future. And I say this from personal experience.

As I shared with many alliance members this past summer, I was a young teen looking at the space program, when the men – and it was only men – who made up “the right stuff” were all white. No woman or person of color manned the Apollo missions, and yet I was inspired and undeterred.

With the support of my mother, teachers and mentors, I reached my dreams of becoming a medical doctor and an astronaut. I later became a medical technology investor, sitting on a variety of corporate and association boards, and now I have the honor of leading the National Math and Science Initiative. My role as NMSI CEO positions me to direct the services and support we extend to schools, teachers, students and communities and allows me to stand before students to say, “I reached my dreams – and so you can, too.”

As we move toward time away from work and school, I hope you are rejuvenated and re-energized to be a force that propels students by setting high expectations and providing support and constant reminders of their potential and talents.

Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr. served on two shuttle missions as a NASA astronaut, traveling more than seven million miles in space and becoming the first African-American to complete a spacewalk. He attended primary and secondary schools in Texas and on the Navajo Reservation before earning a Bachelor of Biology from the University of Houston, a medical degree from Texas Tech University and completing his internal medicine residency at the Mayo Clinic.

Do you want to hear more messages similar to this one? Learn more about our National Charter Schools Conference here.

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