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Deirdra Kelly, City Year Tulsa Team Leader

On Tuesday, December 12, QuickTrip CEO Chet Cadieux and City Year Tulsa held our inaugural Executives for Education breakfast at the Summit Club. The goal was to unite executives across Tulsa in the call to support our education system.

It was a wonderful breakfast. The room had over two hundred executives, corps members, and City Year staff in attendance. We had time to mingle and connect over education while enjoying countless delicious breakfast treats. Each table included a table host, an AmeriCorps member cohost, and around six executives from Tulsa area businesses. From the ensuing conversations, it was clear that Tulsa has a strong network of supporters dedicated to improving education as well as our students' futures. 

It was an honor to play a part in the Executives for Education breakfast. After Cadieux gave a warm welcome to everyone in the room, I had the privilege of sharing my City Year story, highlighting the ripple of hope students, corps members, teachers, and our supporters play in forging the future we want for education.

I opened with one of my favorite quotes from a speech Robert F. Kennedy gave to the University of Cape Town in South Africa in 1966.

“Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage… [and]… belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” 

I love this quote because it is personal. It is inspiring. Kennedy shows us that we all have the potential to change the world. All you need is a belief in a better future and a single action. The ripple of hope Kennedy himself sent forth from his speech inspired decades of other acts of courage that ultimately resulted in apartheid ending. His ripple of hope still lives on as more and more people take deliberate steps to change the world.

My steps; my ripples of hope center around my students and my team. During my first City Year, I focused on making sure my students knew just how much potential they really had. I wanted them to see themselves how I saw them: as some of the most intelligent, caring, motivated children I had ever met. I wanted them to know that they all could be successful.

Above all else, I wanted them to know that they could change the world. I had students who dreamed of helping their younger siblings learn to read. Students who dreamed of cleaning up our ocean’s waters so dolphins could swim without getting hurt. Students who dreamed of ending homelessness.

They all can accomplish these dreams. They all can change the world.

It is our responsibility and our own ripples of hope as City Year members to help students see this. To give them the skills and confidence to believe in a better future. To encourage them to take the first step. But the ripples of hope do not end there.

Every single person who attended our breakfast can send forth a ripple. As Kennedy said, few will have the greatness to bend history themselves, but every single person who attended the breakfast can change a small portion of the events and send forth ripples of hope that will merge together to create a better future for education in Oklahoma.

Maybe this ripple of hope entails service. Maybe it means visiting our schools and connecting with students. Maybe it means raising awareness about the state of Oklahoma’s education. Maybe it means supporting our teachers. Maybe it means supporting City Year.

Regardless of what the ripples of hope are, or how they are sent forth, I know that if enough of us send forth ripples of hope, then we can create the better future we want. A future that will mean that regardless of where a child is born, they will have the support systems needed to succeed, and furthermore, will have the belief in themselves that they will be successful, and will impact this world.

A better future that we will create for our students, our community, our country, and our world.


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