Marissa and I adopted our youngest daughter, Aseres (Ahs-Res), from Ethiopia. We had a full house, but Ethiopia had a generation of parents ravaged by HIV and many orphaned children as a result. We felt that one of those children was our daughter, so we began an adoption process that usually took nine months and one trip to Ethiopia. Our process was not usual — after more than two years and one ten-day trip to Ethiopia, we were back in San Marcos but Aseres was unable to enter the US. This limbo lasted four months with no end in sight. We prayed a lot and felt strongly that we were to go to Ethiopia without resolution. When we arrived, we were stuck and I remember inquiring whether I could get a job at the university in Addis Ababa. Then out of nowhere, the embassy called me on my rental cell phone and told me that Aseres’ visa was ready. I recall praying in a walled garden outside our guest house and feeling a reassurance that it was okay to leave this wonderful people, poor in resources but rich in culture and relationship. Even though we were headed back home to San Marcos where we had lived our whole lives, we were not returning the same as when we started the journey.
It is always tough to return to the states from the developing world, because you move from a land of deep resource poverty to a land of plenty and waste. As I struggled with that, my pastor and I went to an eggs and issues breakfast that the Chamber hosted. The guest speaker was Mark Eads, the new San Marcos Schools’ Superintendent. He shared that our district had almost 300 homeless kids. While I had grown up in San Marcos and knew it was a poor community; it took new meaning that there were hungry, displaced kids right across the street that I had missed on my way across the globe. Our local mission work at River Stone and Mission San Marcos was born that day. One week after the meeting, we hand delivered groceries to 19 struggling families to help them make it through the holidays. Over the next three years, we placed more than 200 mentors with Travis kids, launched Kids Rock Club, an after-school option to 150 kids on Wednesdays, and we tutored and played soccer on other days. We developed summer day camps around the purple bus lunch deliveries where we made friends in the neighborhoods, and we developed Affordable Christmas to give our new friends an empowering hand-up at Christmas.
One day, I was in a home meeting a single-mom and grandmother of one of the children in our mentoring program, when it hit me real hard that the mother had been right where her child was 15 years before and the grandmother had been where her grandchild was 20 years before that. That child has statistically almost as good of a chance of dropping out as being college ready, and that isn’t okay. He needs a mentor, but he needs more than a mentor; he needs an education that allows him to reach further than his mother before him. Education is his greatest hope, his only hope. Yet in the past, I never heard board candidates talk about the kid in that home; I usually heard campaigns that said everything was fine and we had a perception problem. When I looked around the mobile home that evening and thought about the kid in front of me, it was not a perception problem, it was a poverty problem. And the solution to San Marcos’ poverty problem is education. We have to put all of our resources in the classroom to give every kid in our district the world-class education they deserve. The young kids need classes small enough to give them a chance, the college bound need to be college ready, and those who decide that college isn’t for them need to be able to learn the skills to get a job at a living wage. I want to draw a circle around the 7,500 kids in our district right now and say that our generational poverty stops now, through education.
The election has been hard. I have been outspent 3 to 1 and opposed by special interests, and I still have heard some of my opponents talk about our perception problem. But we knew what we were getting into — change is hard, but it is time. The kids in our district can’t wait another three years for a board that understands where we are and is ready to make the tough decisions to get us where we need to be, so I need your vote. The election is going to be incredibly close. Today is the last day of early voting, so please go by the Justice Center before 5:00.