A stunning sunset shone through the glass walls of the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington Monday night as community leaders celebrated the state’s educational advancements.
The “Excellence in Education” event brought together heads of schools, executives of local community organizations, education advocates, state politicians, teachers and more.
Those in attendance – some of whom gave brief speeches – included Sarah Baker, head of school at Tower Hill School; Desa Burton, executive director of Zip Code Wilmington; Aaron Bass, CEO of EastSide Charter School; Julie Keleher, executive director of First State Educate; Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network; Linda Jennings, CEO of the Community Education Building; and Matt Meyer, executive of New Castle County.
Speakers shared the belief that cross-collaboration between schools, districts and community organizations is paramount to academic and social success.
“What I really hope is that you come away knowing a little more about the broader community,” said Ben duPont, board chair of Tower Hill.
Education can be subject to the same problems that occur in many industries, he said.
“One school worries about itself and another school worries about itself and there’s not much cross learning,” he said.
duPont said he hopes Monday’s event can become a regular one so schools and community organizations can bounce ideas off one another and collaborate to make progress for all students, regardless of where they live or what school they attend.
“I began teaching when I was 16 years old in Germantown because I realized that the community around me wasn’t able to have the same access and the same investment as my school,” Bass said. “My high school had 100% graduation, and the high school where I should have gone had 10%, just five blocks away from each other.”
Government officials must invest in social and academic services and create public places for the community to gather, Bass said.
It’s also crucial that parents are actively engaged in their child’s education, he said.
That education should be structured in a way that takes into consideration a student’s past trauma and mental health.
Leaders of the Community Education Building – which is home to Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School – repeated that equitable education is the equalizer for students coming from underprivileged backgrounds.
Zip Code Wilmington’s Burton said her organization has provided access to quality technology training that many Delawareans previously would have needed to travel to Maryland to get.
Her organization started in 2015 as a software coding bootcamp designed to be accessible and affordable to all with the talent and desire to attain a high-demand software programming career.
It primarily trains adults around 30 years old in a 12-week program that consists of 80 to 100 hours of activity a week, Burton said.
“The mission is to help develop the economy of this region by training people who are talented, who have the ability but maybe didn’t have the opportunity to become software developers and data engineers,” she said. “We help folks go from average salaries of let’s say $20,00 to $30,000 to salaries after they received the training of $80,000 to $90,000.”
Zip Code Wilmington has had 650 graduates, with a 95% graduation rate.Of those, 85% of graduates find a job within six months of completing the program.
Computer science education in the state is only offered in 40% of high schools, she said, and just 4% of the students in Delaware are taking those classes.
Having these in-demand skills, she said, can create generational wealth and opportunities for Delaware’s families.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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