Louis Stewart | Contributor

Hidden talent – where can you find it? I believed there is an abundance of hidden talent among under-resourced, under-represented, under-invested communities. These communities are traditionally black and brown communities where students can graduate with all Ds, but can’t read above a third grade level or do math past basic addition and subtraction. Of course, this doesn’t mean these students are not smart, but rather, not equipped to get a job in the new digital economy.

On the other side of the issue is the fact that employers need talent and need it now, just like these graduating students need jobs. In order to solve the problem, city governments and companies must be committed to the creation of pathways to help the hidden talent gain the skills needed though a new talent development pipeline. A culture shift among today’s city and corporate leadership is needed to see that everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

I am fully aware this is a heavy lift, not easily solvable, but we can start with a heavy dose of respect and move forward from there.

Performance and Achievement Gaps   

There is no question that performance and achievement gaps exist, most often in under-resourced communities where minority children find themselves at schools which are not well-equipped with resources (textbooks, technology, libraries) often accompanied by less qualified or less experienced teachers. On top of resources in short supply, minority students who clearly understand education as crucial to success often associate academic achievement with cultural rejection from their peers. Family dynamics can also play a role in these performance and achievement gaps. Often in low income families, parents struggle day to day, working multiple jobs, and as result lack the time or energy to focus on children’s school progress, read to children, or be involved in school activities. (For those who do, the performance and achievement gaps are less evident.)

Meeting the Challenge to Develop Hidden Talent

 Under-resourced, under-represented, under-invested communities are full of talented, smart students whose future correlates directly with nation’s future. We, as a society, need everyone to see the potential, close the achievement gaps, and develop those with  previously hidden talents. Failing to do so comes at a cost as these young minds may be the ones who can address global warming successfully, cure cancer, or develop a treatment for Alzheimer’s. We must see that all children have the education and training needed to succeed. Doing so will require changes, not only from educators, but also policymakers in local governments and corporations.

No students should be hidden or absent from policy debates, but rather encouraged to achieve his or her full potential by communities, cities, educators, and government policymakers. Lower-income students often drop out of high school, and many who graduate high school never go on to higher education. Something must be done to change this pattern, which not only deprives students of opportunity but also deprives the world of valuable resources.

Improving Accessibility Improves Success

 The students in under-invested communities face unique barriers, including the availability of  information about and the access to higher education, as well as affordability of higher levels of education. These students and their families should be told early on in their academic career that success is achievable and though it looks different for everyone, education is the key to a brighter future. The truth is there are nearly four million low income students who have the ability to be high achievers, but face unnecessary obstacles which keep them from excelling in college and their chosen careers. Every student has the ability to achieve success, and we, as a society and community, are the losers when the opportunity to develop talents and achieve their full potential is denied.

We should ensure that every individual, regardless of race or economic circumstances, have the opportunity to advance, utilizing their abilities and hard work. We must make changes within the educational system to advance the prospects for all students, because they have the potential to make amazing contributions to our country and the world. Our nation cannot maintain its economic position if we fail to educate all students at the same high level. The current trends and education gaps are failing those who among the country’s best and brightest – our young people – our future.

Making the Needed Changes – Developing Hidden Talent

 It won’t be easy, but now is the time to make the needed changes and develop the hidden talent among us. Changes in public policy, increased private resources, and greater opportunities are needed to help every young person achieve their full potential. Each generation has great value and worth for the next, and the under-represented hidden talent today is no exception. We must close the achievement gap, focusing on policies which prove effective for under-resourced communities. Local school districts, as well as state and federal policymakers must establish practices which improve levels of education and performance. Beginning with respect for all, and with the addition of new policies and needed changes, we can educate all students, equipping them with the skills needed to help our communities, cities, states, country, and the world with their previously hidden talent. It will make all the difference, not only with a brighter future for the students, but for everyone.