A new year is among us, and once again school is underway across the nation. Some schools have returned for the second half of the year in a semi-normal capacity, though it seems most have opted to continue virtual learning for the foreseeable future. As a dad of three, I am wholeheartedly committed to the health and safety of my kids, but as they’ve settled into their new e-learning routines, I can’t help but empathize with their struggles and ponder where I would be now if I would have participated in a similar online educational experience. 

If I can be vulnerable for a second, I struggled a great deal in school. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had ADHD and dyslexia, and so academics did not come easy. If I’m being honest, I really only enjoyed school for two reasons: social interaction and football. 

Football allowed me to truly find my purpose in school, and my desire to continue playing on the field pushed me to improve my grades off the field. Growing up, I dreamed of playing for my high school football coach, Paul Engen, and getting that opportunity was a dream come true. To this day, I credit his guidance and leadership often for the man I’ve become.  Football is also what allowed me to pursue post-secondary education. Truth be told, it wasn’t until October of my senior year that I was scouted to play in college, so without that year, or even that one single game – who knows where I’d be? 

What I do know is that as a low-income kid, with two immigrant parents, a 1200 square foot house packed with seven people, and two learning disabilities, a virtual learning environment would have been my demise. The adversity I would have faced to obtain my education would have been too much for my 17-year-old self to handle. Especially without my teachers and coaches taking me by the hand, assisting and pushing me to succeed. Unfortunately, I fear that this scenario may play out for other kids today. 

I won’t pretend to have the answers to prevent those tragedies. I know a great deal of thought and consideration has gone into the plans made for virtual learning, but I do hope that out of the spirit of positively impacting lives, we can come together to support those kids like me that will inevitably struggle. Those kids deserve the opportunity to pursue the future they dream of, and as parents, educators, and leaders, it’s our responsibility to give it to them.