My name is Shayvonne Anderson. I am 36 years old and I am the proud mother of 10 children between the ages 5 to18. I was born and raised in in Newark, NJ and I am a product of the Newark public schools system. For that reason, my children were educated in the East Orange school district until my husband and I were forced to move back to Newark in June of 2013 for financial reasons.
Before moving back to Newark I had heard of charter schools, but I did not know exactly what they were. From speaking to other people at the time, my understanding was that charter schools were difficult to get acceptance (I thought there were entrance exams), students had to go through a lottery process, and acceptance wasn’t guaranteed. However, as I did more research, my understanding changed and I sought to speak with parents of children who attended charter schools; I heard wonderful things.
With the new information from charter school parents, and the decision to move back to Newark, I immediately began the process of searching for schools for my children. I applied to just about every charter school there was in Newark. And it was a success. My children were accepted into Newark Collegiate Academy, Paulo Freire Charter School, Great Oaks Charter School and Marion P. Thomas Charter School. In 2014 One Newark enrolls was introduced and I was able to prioritize specific schools for my children that I knew, based on my research, would be best for my children. Now, my children attend Newark Collegiate Academy, Team Academy, Spark Academy and The Paulo Freire Charter School. These schools—charter schools—are so important for my family’s future because my children are learning life skills, and receiving the benefit of a great education that every child should receive.
My children are learning so much more than I ever learned. When I was a student of Newark Public Schools, I was not taught the importance of finances and good credit, nor the benefits and importance of going to college and getting a degree. In school, the mindset was that just getting through high school was enough. It wasn’t. And thankfully, charter schools offer an entirely different Newark public school education than the one I received.
Newark is said to be a “bad” place to live but it is here in Newark that my children are receiving the best education. My 14 year old daughter failed math for the past three years and the last time she made honor roll was in early elementary school. In her first year at Team Academy she received a B in math and achieved Honor Roll this past semester. She has become the star student I always knew she could be, her personality has blossomed, her teachers encourage her and they push her to do better than her definition of her best. My son, 13, has been a challenge in school: behaviorally and academically, but since coming to charter school he, too, has become a star student in his own right, and although he still has his challenges, his teachers work with him and me. The teachers take time to understand his learning process and they work very closely with me to develop plans that support and help him. And finally, my 5 year old started kindergarten at Spark Academy in September 2014 not knowing any sight words. Now, in just three short months, not only does he know about 50 sight words, he can read on grade level, which is something he could not do previously. Lastly, my three older daughters, 16 (twins) and 17, attend Paulo Freire Charter School. Two of my girls have unique learning needs, yet the school and teachers have created tailored plans for each of them to help them achieve their personal and academic goals.
In each school, the teachers care about the students and they are invested in helping them succeed. I love that my children are held accountable for their actions, taught to take responsibility, and taught that hard work hard is the process to get good grades—my children are held to a higher standard in charter schools, where they are taught to push past the thought of being average and work to be excellent. I am grateful that my children have been afforded this opportunity, but I feel strongly that this opportunity should not be something that is afforded, but rather something that is required for and owed to, every student no matter where they live. A zip code should not impact whether or not my child—or any child—has a great educational opportunity. That’s just a fact.