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I’ve Been Thinking … ‘Every Day is Kids Day’

I have two magnificent sons. Being a father to Reece and Blair is the greatest gift I could ever receive. It is also the greatest responsibility, one that I strive to uphold.

A couple of years ago, one of them asked, “Dad…there’s Mother’s Day, there’s Father’s Day…what about us?” I quickly replied, “That’s easy. Every day is kids day!”

They accepted my answer halfheartedly because they weren’t suddenly swimming in cards and gifts. But, they understood the spirit of my response.

The only problem was I wasn’t sure that I accepted my answer. Sadly, there’s too much evidence that my comment might have been overly idealistic. “Every day must be kids day” would have been more accurate.

In addition to my sons, I also have 100 wonderful Suns. This is what we call our students at Visible Men Academy, the all-boys Kindergarten through fifth-grade charter school I run with an exceptional team in Bradenton, Florida. They’re Suns because they SHINE brightly.

Leading our 100 Suns is among the greatest privileges I’ve ever known. They are black, Latino, and (three!) white boys from low-income family backgrounds. These are the boys who for far too long have been over-represented in national statistics reflecting negative school and life outcomes. Too many of these precious boys are caught in what I refer to as the “cycle of futility”. It starts with disconnection from school at shockingly young ages, failure to graduate high school, unemployment, incarceration, recidivism, and early mortality. Throughout this odyssey, too many of our young and grown men aren’t present to play the meaningful role as fathers their children so desperately need. This pattern reinforces the greatest obstacle of all – low expectations for the future prospects of these boys. It is among our nation’s most unflattering blemishes.

But, we know something more about these boys – the Suns in our school and the millions they represent far beyond our building. We know that they are bright and brilliant. We know that they are creative and resilient. And, most importantly, we know that they are kind-hearted, caring, and loving. Because we see these traits on display every minute of every hour of every day, we are absolutely convinced that our Suns will be successful because of who they are, not in spite of who they are.

One of our grandparent guardians recently shared this comment from a colleague. “Really, Visible Men Academy has been a father to your grandson.” I was deeply moved by this sentiment. It’s truly a privilege.

All of our children have so much to offer. Their well-being is a direct reflection of our care and nurturing, our commitment to loving. Our promise as responsible adults is to raise and eventually launch children who are emotionally healthy, confident in their abilities, considerate of other’s needs, and capable of meeting the many demands of adulthood, which include intelligence, responsibility, hard work, and perseverance. This path begins with all of our children recognizing and embracing their inherent human value – they all matter!

We are certainly up to this task. We are entirely capable of dedicating ourselves to the boundless opportunity of elevating all of our children through parenting – both literal and figurative, through leadership, and through love.

Happy Father’s Day! And, Happy Kids Day, too!

Neil Phillips is the Founder of Visible Men and the Founder and CEO of Visible Men Academy. Neil has over 25 years of experience as an educator, entrepreneur, coach, and youth advocate. Neil is regarded as a national thought leader and renowned speaker on black male achievement, minority education, character development, and youth empowerment.

This essay was featured in the Father’s Day edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.




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