Tuesday, August 03, 2010

School Pride

I first met SWAT Commander Tom Stroup while at the Y in Orlando. He taught a special workout class (which I admit I never took--too intimidating) but was there in his work clothes, which included prominently displayed badge and gun. I introduced myself and asked if he'd mind answering some writing-related questions. He was most gracious and we set up a meet at the local Starbucks, where the "don't use stereotypes" credo was reinforced when he ordered tea, not coffee. Not only did he answer my questions, but he invited me on a tour of the Central Ops building, where I picked up a lot of the 'local color' found in Nowhere to Hide.

I had an e-mail from him recently about his latest venture, which is not related to his law enforcement work, and it was fascinating, so I asked him to share it with my readers. And be sure to watch the video clip at the end. Welcome, Commander Tom Stroup!

I am a SWAT Commander for a large metropolitan police department, and here I sit in an airport in Vermont waiting for a plane to take me to Detroit, Michigan. I will arrive in Detroit on Saturday evening and I will begin work on Sunday morning. I will be the co-host of a new NBC reality show called “School Pride”. We will have 7 days to totally rebuild an ailing school.

The story of how I went from SWAT Commander to TV host is fascinating, but will have to wait for another time. The real story is why do schools in America need to be rebuilt? The first episode of School Pride will air on September 24, 2010. We will rebuild 7 schools across America.

I knew that there were “issues” with the American educational system, but I was not prepared for what I soon discovered. I expected to find schools that needed a fresh coat of paint, and I knew that teachers were overworked and underpaid.

What I did not expect was schools in America with no outside water fountains, no gym lockers, rats and termites in the walls and ceilings, graffiti on the hallway walls, no showers, moldy walls, no air conditioning, windows and doors boarded up with no light coming into the classroom, one outlet in the room, although they didn't need any more because they only had rotting, hole-filled chalk boards.

Then I met the teachers, and I found out that they were very unhappy with these deplorable conditions, but all they really wanted were books, clean floors, safe desks, proper lighting and pull down projector screens.

The teachers explained to me that in addition to the unsafe classrooms, the children were victims of “reverse learning”. In most cases, the children had more technology at home than they had at school. The children came to school and were bored.

The question is not why are there so many schools in America that need help, but how do we fix them?

The economy is struggling and the schools are suffering. We cannot continue to ignore this desperate need. What is the solution? You, me, the community all must come together to fix this problem. The schools are the future of America. If we let the schools fail we let America fail. It does not matter if you have children in school. It does not matter if your community is struggling. What matters is that we help each other. Teachers, students, parents and the community must come together to rebuild the broken schools.

I just met a high school student named Kevon who attends a high school in inner city Detroit. The school he attends has an over 95% college placement record yet the school is scheduled for closure. That college placement rate is higher than most “wealthy” high schools. Kevon submitted a video to NBC School Pride and asked them to help save his school. As a result of Kevon's effort, his school is receiving a total rebuild. Hundreds of volunteers, teachers, students, and local business owners have showed up to save his school. When I asked Kevon why he cared about his school so much he simply said, “It's not about me.”

That's all I need to say....

For more about this special project, please visit Tom's School Pride blog. And please, share this post and his blog with your friends.


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Terry,

What a fascinating article. I think it is the right of every child to have a decent education and to receive that, they need decent facilities and equipment at their schools. I hope this venture is a resounding success.


Terry Odell said...

Margaret. as a parent and a former teacher, I totally agree. Knowing Tom, I'm sure things will go well--let's just hope it spreads.

Jemi Fraser said...

AWESOME!!! It breaks my heart when I hear about schools falling apart. Sometimes a school is the only safe place for a kid. Kids deserve every single thing we can give them.

The video gave me chills. I hope this is a HUGE success!

Terry Stonecrop said...

The deplorable conditions were appalling. The rebuild was stunning, though!

My hat is off to Tom Stroup and all the others who made this happen.

Enlightening post! I'll check out his blog.

Terry Odell said...

Jemi, Terry - thanks for stopping by. And I do hope you'll share this post to help raise awareness.

Julie Kramer said...

This was news to me. Glad to hear of it.

Anonymous said...

For the point of view talk, I would use the opening of a book that starts in 1st person, with I this and that.

The second book would cover 3rd person. he/she

Second person would be a tougher one, unless in a separate scene with a lots of dialogue. You...

Joann Breslin

Terry Odell said...

Julie - good to see you here, and glad I helped spread the word. People like Tom, who really care, are treasures.

Joann - thanks for your tips.