Sustainability Institute: Helping Change Lives

By Beverly Gadson-Birch  

The longer I live, the less regrets I have.  It hasn’t always been that way.  It seems like such a long time ago that I was out living for the weekend like others of my generation.

My generation is no different than the young people of today who have a very active social life.  We worked hard all week but looked forward to weekends to hang out with friends.

After all, we were young and young people tend to view life through sunglasses. The only danger facing me at the time was segregation.  I did not understand it then, still don’t, and refuse to accept it now.

My fight over the years has been consistent and centered around discrimination and education because education is the foundation for success and discrimination is the foundation for failure.  And when you deny children equal access to an education, that’s discrimination in its worst form.

Discrimination prevents a child from reaching his/her fullest potential. So, when you look at the state of education in Charleston County, very little has changed during the past 50 years.  Children of color are still discriminated against.

Education comes in many forms.  It’s not all about what you find in a textbook.  Actually, the most memorable lessons come from life experiences. For instance, I have forgotten most of what I learned in obsolete textbooks issued in elementary school; but, I remember the hands-on lessons my father taught me.

While I am disappointed in the Charleston County School Board’s approach to educating children, I fully understand their backroom shenanigans and why we have so many failing students.  It has never been the intent nor the consensus of members of this board and previous boards to educate all students alike.

Unfortunately, the disparagers have been in the majority.  After all, this is a hospitality city and someone has to make the beds, wash dishes, and flip burgers.

Although many minority students are falling between the cracks, there are many more success stories that are not told. Regardless of where students are when they enter school, it is the job of an educational system to take them from point A to point B.

I am just crazy enough to believe that all children can learn; they just learn differently and at different paces.  They need to be challenged from the first day they walk into school.

This article is really about Rev. Lawrence Bratton, Energy Conservation Corps Program Director and Pastor of Bible Way Baptist Church. He is living proof of determination and what can be done when you roll your sleeves up and dig in deep to help young people that are at risk.

Failure is not an option with Rev. Bratton. He is committed to helping young men and women, who have dropped out of the educational process for whatever reason, learn a marketable skill and become productive members of society.

Last week, I was invited by Rev. Bratton to an open house, hands-on experience for members of the community.  It was the highlight of my week as I observed young men in action sealing a home from invasive air. The event was very successful.

Rev. Lawrence Bratton (left) explaining home retrofitting to volunteers

Young men in the program were seen teaching volunteers how to make a home more energy efficient by changing light bulbs from incandescent to LEDs, corking, insulating attic, sealing up around light switches and windows and rewrapping and sealing loose ducts.

The Sustainability Institute teaches young men and women energy conservation which ultimately saves homeowners hundreds of dollars on their utility bill. Think about what that means in terms of helping the elderly and those that scrape every month to pay their utility bills while going without medicine, doctor visits and healthy foods.  Homeowners can only stretch their “fixed income” so far.

According to Rev. Bratton, the average cost to retrofit a home is $2,500.  The program’s main source of funding was cut this year and the program’s future is at risk if the community does not help out.  You, your church or organization can help through donations or sponsoring a home.

Your donations will help retrofit another home and will help to keep at-risk young men and women off the streets.  It will also help to move them closer to becoming self-sufficient and productive members of society.  Graduates of the program can also become entrepreneurs with your help.   

For more information on the program and how you can help, contact Rev. Bratton or the office at 843-529-3421, 4151 Spruill Avenue, Suite #200, North Charleston, SC,  29405.

Y’all do the right thing and give these young people a second chance at becoming successful.

I no longer live for the weekend.  I live to make a difference.

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