“Read beyond the stories and you’ll see clear rationale for—and virtue of—school choice.… [T]hose who carp that schools (and the dedicated workers in them) can’t trump a family’s influence would be wise to thumb this book.”
—Layla Bonnot, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
“Kevin Chavous is an expert on American education policy, having been an elected member of the DC Council in our nation’s capital. He dealt with Congress and the major national organizations on a number of issues. In DC he is Mr. Education. He knows all the devices that have been used to keep schools from getting better, and he has found ways to remove many of them. But in this book he leaves the hearing rooms and think tanks and explores the heart of the issue, the students who are struggling to learn. He tells the stories of ten young people who fought for an education; for a chance for a better life; and, with the help of tough teachers, found a way to get there. It is a book full of heart by a man who knows everything there is to know about what we need to do to save our schools.”
—Jay Mathews, education reporter, Washington Post; New York Times bestselling author, Work Hard, Be Nice
"With sensitivity and an eye for detail, Kevin Chavous tells the stories of kids who faced enormous challenges and still found the strength to get an education that changed their lives. By bringing these compelling human stories to the debate about school reform, this book provides a much-needed reminder that, while adults argue about policy, the lives of our children hang in the balance."
—Joel Klein, chief executive, NewsCorp’s educational division; former chancellor, New York City Public Schools
“Through Voices of Determination, Kevin Chavous sends a message that needs to be heard. That message is that our children possess enormous strength and potential. His presentation of the stories of the ten heroic young people leaves us awed by the strength of their will and resiliency. The stories of these young heroes make it clear that we as adults do them an immense injustice when we underestimate their potential or fail to provide them the support they deserve. Voices of Determination is a must read.”
—Rod Paige, former US Secretary of Education
“One of the nation’s foremost education reform advocates, Kevin Chavous is also a master storyteller. In sharing the struggles and triumphs of these courageous and inspiring young people, he vividly shows us that a determined human spirit can succeed, despite the odds.”
—Ed Lewis, co-founder, former publisher, and CEO, Essence Magazine; board chair, Harlem Village Academies
“In Voices of Determination, Kevin Chavous introduces us to ten remarkable young people who embody the determination and courage of the human spirit. They should inspire all of us to continue to fight for equal access to a high quality education for all children to ensure they can achieve their highest dreams and potential.”
—Cory Booker, mayor, Newark, New Jersey
“Voices of Determination is a must-read for anyone involved in public education reform today. It single-handedly debunks the myth that children are victims of their circumstance. For those who believe that our urban schools cannot be fixed because of the complex and intractable issues of poverty, Kevin Chavous provides an indisputable refutation. Our children can and will succeed if we, as the adults responsible for the system, provide them with the education they crave and so richly deserve. ”
—Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO, Students First; former chancellor, DC Public Schools
“Kevin Chavous is a true reformer and fighter in education who has led the effort to provide educational choices to students in Washington, D.C. He understands that our children will determine the future success of our nation. The heroic tales in this book inspire us all to work to ensure that no child is left behind.”
—Margaret Spellings, former US Secretary of Education
“Kevin Chavous’ work offers an honest portrayal of the fact that educators and community leaders cannot control where a student comes from. It reminds us that our children are capable of beating the odds, if only we can empower those educators willing to place the bet. Equally important, Chavous understands that policymakers need these real life stories every bit as much as we need statistics in making our case to the public for meaningful reform.”
—Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction
“This book is about life. It is the story of a man and how he came to value education so much. It’s the story of how one person’s experience can shape a dream—and a lifelong commitment—for others. Through his special lens, Kevin Chavous takes us on his journey and, by extension, the journey of a handful of children who represent all of our kids.”
—Jeanne Allen, president, The Center for Education Reform
From the Inside Flap
Many of these narratives depict public schools at their worst. Chavous argues that poor communities routinely hire inexperienced teachers, lack resources, and pass kids along until they drop out. Once out of school, these youngsters quickly find out that they are unprepared for the job market. This, he claims, leads many young people to drift into anti-social behavior and turn to gangs, drugs, and unproductive lifestyles. In addition the narratives in this volume also address such social issues as immigration, bad neighborhoods, poor health care, addiction, and child abuse. Chavous highlights how hope for a better future enabled the children whose stories make up this volume to achieve a better life.
There are potential challenges at every stage of a child's development and the adults around them need to be nearby and ready to act effectively. Chavous concludes that the need to strengthen families and to rebuild surrounding communities should be the top priorities for society as a whole.