Singer John Legend calls for national education reform

Thousands of student affairs professionals joined John Legend Sunday to advocate for a greater investment in American education during the annual Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, formerly the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, conference in downtown Phoenix.

Conference Chair Larry Roper said the conference theme "Ignite Leadership Influence Change" reflected the desire to motivate those who wish to work with students through the University to ensure academic success, and to make education equality a priority.

He said the conference intended to increase awareness of student issues and supply opportunities for professional development and networking to student affairs professionals.

“Our hope is that our time here at the conference will provide that each of us can make our way in the world,” Roper said.

NASPA President Patricia Telles-Irvin said she hoped the conference would move those in attendance to “create the future” of education.

“We are improving lives of those less fortunate by assuring access to higher education,” Telles-Irvin said.

She said she has seen an effort to establish justice in the nation's education system throughout her travels.

“My optimism rests in seeing actions taken by those among us who are taking efforts to stop injustice in our country,” Telles-Irvin said.

Guest speaker John Legend founded the nonprofit organization Show Me Campaign, which works toward education reform in the U.S.

Legend said to the crowd during the conference he began the organization after taking a trip to Africa and experiencing the poverty there.

“I witnessed the reality of people who live on less than $1 a day,” Legend said.

Growing poverty in the U.S. makes education reform more important than ever, he said.

“There's no question that poverty is a growing domestic issue,” Legend said. “The single best way for people to break the cycle of poverty in the United States is through education.”

He said poverty persists in communities nationwide because low-income families don't have the same access to higher education as those from high-income families.

“An education inequality lies at the heart of the problem,” Legend said. “Education is the civil rights issue of our generation.”

He said it's becoming more important for schools to prepare K-12 students to achieve a college education.

Legend said the fate of the education system rests upon the selection of political leaders who support education reform.

“We need to be thinking about how these politicians are investing in our schools,” he said. “As this nation struggles its way out of a great recession, we have to decide what kind of country we want to live in.”

Legend said he wanted to see less tax cuts for wealthy people such as himself and more support for low-income families who want their children to have an accessible education.

He said he hoped to see student affairs professionals seeking out this reform in the future.

“We have the power to make this country a better place, and in my opinion, our education system is a great way to start,” Legend said.


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