By JuWan Graham

I had just finished the third grade and was beginning to go to the fourth.  My mom transferred me to Spain Elementary/Middle School, a Detroit Public School (DPS). I spent six years there. Across the street from Children’s Hospital, it was only a few blocks away from the heart of city. My fourth grade teacher was something else. When I tell you she was a witch, oh…my…goodness!  When all the other homerooms had parties and celebrations, we did work. She expected greatness, and you earned everything. She was hard on us because we weren’t hard on ourselves. Whether or not I knew, she was precisely what we needed, a teacher.

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Comparing my situation in 2001 to today’s situation is a contrast of day and night. In 2016, DPS essentially has no money with schools closing left and right. Deteriorating buildings are part of the norm, declining enrollment sucks the funding away, and sinking test scores are the result of pink slipping teachers. But the kids are ultimately the piece of the pie that gets left without cover.  Where are the kids supposed to go when their neighborhood school closes? How are these students supposed to get the adequate attention necessary when they don’t have the staffing available?  Who’s going to care for them? The questions don’t have any answers in the near future.

The students get lost in the shuffle when it comes to politics and money. There are bills being put through legislation that are aimed at resolving the education crisis. There have been emergency managers appointed left and right to get the debt under control. There are parents essentially overseeing the lowest performing schools. In spite of all this, are the students still coming first? I hardly believe so.

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I am fortunate that I was able to get the education I did right before everything came falling down, or maybe I was too young to notice what was going on. But for the time I was there, I had an excellent time. I got to play the violin and eventually play in an orchestra. I was able to experience my first crush (I was in love, or so I thought). I met wonderful teachers and administrators who cared for my well-being. Most of all, I got the best education I believe helped me progress to where I am at today, as a future college graduate. All because those people put the students first.

Over the years, I have seen DPS become bad to worse, and from worse to unfathomable. But maybe I’m an optimist. Maybe I have so much faith in a war torn system that everything will be alright. Maybe I’m just stupid. Whatever the case maybe, the students have to come first.

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JuWan Graham is an aspiring public relations practitioner with a passion for writing and sports, and currently interning at CBS62 and CW50.  He is a senior attending Eastern Michigan University, majoring in Public Relations while minoring in Marketing.