Civic Life Fellows: Words of Wisdom

Michael Bellamy is a student at Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama.  He and a number of other students are participating as Civic Life Fellows with the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University, David Mathews Center for Civic Life, and University of Alabama’s New College.  Their project relates to the Mathews Center program Alabama Issues Forums, developing infrastructure, habits, and capacities for more effective civic engagement and innovative decision making. Solving the high school dropout situation is the current focus of Alabama Issues Forums.

“’Don’t be a dummy.” As I read these words on the back of the handout I had just been given I was surprised by the language. It seemed out of place for the person that I had just interviewed. The words were in response to the last question on the survey for the dropout prevention project I was doing in concert with my fellow classmates at Central High School(Phenix City, AL). We were conducting these surveys at the office of the Honorable Judge Bellamy, who was kind enough to lend his support to this project.

After the young woman gave me the response, she got up and proceeded to leave the room, and as soon as she left, another volunteer took her place. I asked the new interviewee the question, “If you were talking to someone who was about to dropout what would you say?” but my mind lingered on the young lady’s response. And as my group finished the last of our interviews and surveys my thoughts once again returned to her words.

I soon realized why, because when thinking it over I remembered the old saying, “Knowledge is knowing a donkey kicks; wisdom is getting out of the way.” Now her sentence may not have been dazzling in its use of the English language, but as a simple statement it really gets the job done. If you really take this small token to heart, it will easily have an impact on your life; it sure made one on mine.

Her statement changed my outlook on the act of dropping out. I was well aware that there were numerous reasons for dropping out, from poverty to personal choice. But after conducting these interviews I found that a more prominent reason was because of more personal crises, such as a car accident or death in the family. Personally I think some reform in the system that determines how a student handles school they miss would be necessary to help prevent the dropouts for this reason, as well as counseling or even granted time for such things. There could even be an improvement in the system for work that needs to be done outside of school in order to help make missed work more accessible to the troubled individual.”

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