Change: What Stage Are You?


To continue from my last post, about the answer to the many challenges young people have – especially those who are labeled “disadvantaged” – I want to share a story or two about my experiences helping young people get into and stay in college. I did identify helping young people stay in high school and supporting them through the career-finding process as the answer.

While I am not straying away from that notion, I want you to know that just because you attempt to accomplish those two tasks does not (…and I mean, DOES NOT!) mean that it will be ‘easy as pie’, as they say.

So here’s the story: I was speaking with a young “disadvantaged” college student about their college experience. But here’s the part of the conversation that pertains to their grades and the quickly approaching end of the semester. Basically, here’s how the story went:

Me: – So what are your current grades?

Young Person #1: – I’m not doing so well. I have a few D’s and C’s.

Me: – Ok. So what are you going to do different within these last few weeks of school?

Young Person #1: – Nothing. I found some new learning strategies that I think will work.

Me: – Ok. And what about accessing all of the tutoring that your school offers,

as well as the tutoring that I am offering you right now?

Young Person #1:  – Well, thanks, but I don’t need that. I’m fine.

Me:   – But what if what you’re doing doesn’t work the way you’d like it to?

Young Person #1: – I’ll be fine. I know this is the best learning style that fits me. Of course it’s going to work.

Now, I know what I heard. Did you hear the same? I heard a young person turn down the opportunity to access help/support for the college courses they were taking. I reminded them that I was much older than they were and that I had earned 2 degrees – meaning that I just might have some idea of what I was talking about. But after doing so, their answer was still the same. How sad. They were unwilling. What makes this story worse is that I was speaking to a group of young college students when this conversation took place and all of their responses, including how they were doing in school, was the same; the same! Yup – the same! Why is this the case? How can we cap the gap when this is the mentality?

But wait! Cap the Gap is about high school youth – not college. Precisely – but all college students must first be in high school. And their college-minded mindset had to have begun prior to their entrance into college. The fact that they are in college does not absolutely mean that anything has changed – except that they are in college now, not high school. See my point? But I can go even further to explain that some of the high school students I’ve dealt with think the same way. You know what I’m saying is true – it’s the old, “I wanna be stupid and cool versus because being smart and corny” – remember that from your elementary, middle and high school years? It hasn’t changed, just the people have.

So how do we combat this type of thinking? I have to warn you that I don’t have any secret spells, magic, or pills to make society change. But I can share with you something I learned of not too long ago.

The key is to realize that just because a young person is in school, doesn’t mean that they want to learn or that they desire a quality education. In addition to fighting for better educational opportunities, we have to connect with young people where they are – I mean understanding what they desire from education and what their perspective of education is. It even helps to know what their dreams are so that we can help them, logically, understand the connection to education now.

After getting an understand of where their mind is, we can then help them “buy-in” to our notion of what education means, how it can benefit your future, and how it can benefit their friends, etc. It’s like infecting them with a good virus that we want them to spread to others. And when we are connecting to them, it helps to know the 5 stages of change:

1.      Pre-Contemplation

2.      Contemplation

3.      Preparation

4.      Action

5.      Maintenance

Here’s some info below, taken from another website that contains a good explanation:

Change can happen. And it will. We just have to be careful to meet people where they are and encourage them to see what we see. Which stage are you in – when it comes to accepting your responsibility to help young people close the achievement gap?


Written by Cap.the.Gap contributor, Joshua Cooper


About Lola O.

is a self-described Reformer for urban education and advocate for students with exceptionalities. Her interest in urban education reform started in context after surviving, what she calls, the “holocaust of the D.C. Public Schools.” She intuitively knew that there where forces working against her; no one had to tell her that the odds of her graduating, going on to college, and escaping poverty were stacked well against her simply because of her zip code of 20010. She made a pact with God that if he delivered her, she would come back and help reverse these odds for students coming after her. Needless to say, God kept his end of the deal and today she is a graduate of Eastern University with degrees in Urban Studies and Political Science and plans to pursue her Master’s in early childhood administration. In 2009, she was accepted to the Public Allies class of 2009-2010. Public Allies, started under the leadership of Michele Obama, is a national movement grounded in the conviction that everyone leads; that everyone has gifts and assets that they can contribute to making their communities and society a better place. While serving as an Ally, she had the opportunity to serve with A Schools—Pittsburgh’s premier advocacy group for urban education reform. It was while in this role that she was able to deepen her knowledge on issues plaguing urban schools across the country. She returned from her time with Public Allies believing that the racial academic achievement gap is the biggest threat to the economic prosperity of historically disenfranchised communities and resolved to sound the alarm through a self-initiated blog entitled, Cap the Gap. The title was inspired by the 2010 summer BP oil spill during which the nation cried out, calling BP to cap the break in the pipe that was spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, causing economic and environmental damage that will be felt for years to come. In the same way, she believes something even more precious is spilling, and that is the lives of tens of thousands of students of color who graduate every year unable to compete in our economy. Without adequate skills, the lives of these students often spill into crime, drugs, welfare dependency, the prison system, and ultimately the grave. Her hope is to bring together a community of concerned citizens to engage in a solution base dialogue that leads to the close of the achievement gap. When she isn’t writing for her blog, she spends her time serving as a volunteer with Jumpstart, a national organization committed to closing the achievement gap by focusing on early literacy and cognitive development. Her best two hours of the week is spent reading to preschoolers at Leap%2

Posted on June 12, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Tiffany Clark

    Wow! This is so true! Learning is not about how smart you are, it is about your mindset! I am currently in a medical program for disadvantaged students and I was inspired by one of the minority students who completed the program and is now a 4th year Medical Student. He told our class, ” Medical School is not about how smart you are. It is about your level of discipline”. I feel this statement speaks to your article!

    Kids need to be thirsty and hungry to want to learn. In disadvantaged communities, we need to make learning cool again! Only then will kids want to not only KNOW their learning style, but APPLY it as well!!

    I really enjoyed the article!!!

    -Tiffany Clark

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