If education is the great equalizer toward a successful adulthood; children, youth and young adults will have an increased level of responsibility among themselves, their peers and for their community’s well-being throughout the 21st century given America’s education, healthcare and mental health systems gear towards integration.

Given the fact that none of America’s systems were designed to support non-whites, the historical trauma which has perpetuated through African American culture, America’s veterans returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, political leaders to every day children under assault by unstable aggressors every child and future parent will benefit from the building of a Continuum of Healthcare and Education Systems (CHES) as a model for whole school-district reform.

As a Black male who has experienced poverty and depression, I understand the difficulty of pulling one’s self up by their bootstraps when few supports and constant challenge impede recovery.  Without positive mental health an individual’s physical health will suffer. Using poverty as an indicator for mental health instability according to new data from the Census Bureau, the nation’s poverty rate is at its highest in 17 years at 15.1%.  For many of our children and youth who grow up in poverty they have become academically disenfranchised.

African Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population with nearly 27% in poverty according to the Census Bureau. Identically, another 27% are likely one crisis or paycheck away from the hardship in which poverty presents.  The crisis data confirms that by population, African Americans are disproportionately represented in every adverse health, mental health, education and unemployment statistic.  Disparity is the condition in which we must overcome.

While the unemployment rate fell from 8.3% in August to 8.1%, it was due in part to 400,000 16-25 year olds giving up looking for work.  A Continuum of Healthcare and Education Systems is reinforced by a school-community economic model that provides jobs and services simultaneously in local communities.  The jobs and service program will train college students to deliver social emotional learning supports to their younger peers prior to middle and high school promotion.

Facilitated by systemic transformational change protocols, CHES will shift local education agencies from the outdated industrial age paradigm into a 21st century “student-centered” education system. CHES will systematically establish systems of prevention, early intervention and care in K-12 education.  More importantly, CHES will proactively address behavior health concerns, intervene where dense psychosocial and health issues are perplexing and appropriately identify children and youth requiring specialized care.

Like President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal the American Dream has become questionable.  Paralyzed by a 21st century recession, America is going through seismic restructuring with both democratic and republican leadership in political stalemate with no clear direction towards a United States of America.  Moreover, African Americans are less than one year away from the 50th Anniversary marking the March on Washington and yet we are not unified under a common agenda.

Several civil rights and bipartisan leadership have suggested education reform is the civil rights issue of our time. A unique and rare opportunity has presented itself with the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act and the recent White House Executive Order for Educational Excellence for African Americans.  As bottom up approach to systems reform, CHES provides African Americans the opportunity to mobilize for jobs and community well-being.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted as saying “It is the nettlesome task of Black Americans to bear the burden of redeeming the soul of America.”  What we as African Americans accomplish or fail to accomplish at this time in human history will represent our legacy throughout the 21st century.  By advocating for a Continuum of Healthcare and Education Systems the lives of millions of America’s youth will be improved well into the 21st century.