Former TCSS student discusses how poverty affects learning

Published 6:59 pm Monday, April 2, 2018

When Fredrick Bailey graduated from Callaway High School in 2006, he had no idea his path would lead him to stand before his former teachers and principals as an adult discussing poverty and how it impacts student learning.

Yet, during a positively emotional administrator’s meeting with more than 40 school leaders, Bailey recounted his personal story of growing up in undesirable conditions, but still maintaining the fortitude to attend school — even if it was for the school lunches he received.

“I knew education was important, but I also knew that sometimes the only time I would receive a smile, a hug, a positive word, or even food for that day…was at school from the teachers, the bus drivers, or the cafeteria workers,” Bailey said.

He said he learned how to read and other essential foundations for education, but he had more on his young mind.

“Sometimes I would come home from school and the electricity would be turned off at home. This meant I couldn’t wash my clothes for school the next day so I would have to wear them dirty or cold because they couldn’t dry in time for school,” he said.

He cautioned the attendees to take a hard look at those who may be disrupting class because, “this would be embarrassing for me. I used to act out and pick on other kids — not because I was mean — but I thought if I picked on them first, they wouldn’t pick on me for wearing the same clothes to school every day. You might think that a young person is a trouble maker when all they are trying to do is cover up something that they may be ashamed of.”

Bailey continued his passionate account.

“I went to four elementary schools in five years – and that’s the reality of some of our young people in Troup County,” Bailey said. “If I didn’t have caring teachers and principals who believed in me, I might not be here today.”

Now, as an author, mentor, speaker and CEO of Fredrick Bailey Enterprises, LLC, he says there are many people who impacted his life, but some key people opened their family and home to him.

“I was in Communities in Schools and Cynthia Bryant was always there for me. Jerome and Gina Cofield took me in when I was in sixth grade. I asked them could I stay for one night, and I haven’t left,” he said. “They raised me as part of their family. They helped make me the man I am today.”

Bailey stated their inspiration helped guide him into his journey through Gordon College where he obtained degrees in early childhood and adult education. He is appreciative for where he is in life, but his main purpose in speaking is to help educators remember one thing.

“Don’t forget why we are doing what we do. We do what we do for the students, for the kids. Education is great,” he said. “It’s good because it can take you places, but sometimes there are deeper issues. If there are issues happening at home for a student, it is hard for them to focus on learning. The takeaway is to watch those students who have their hands extended looking for a school leader to check their inventory and help.”