Dreams and Grants

Me, My Son, and Stress


BabyMalSixteen years ago, I left the hospital with a brand new baby boy. I remember thinking, as my husband was trying to fit the car seat into the car, “Seriously? They are going to just let us take him home without teaching us all the things we need to be doing to ensure he is safe and happy?”  As someone who had spent many years sitting in a classroom being taught and prepared for a career, it was mind-blowing that there was so little teaching and preparation for the most important job ever.

Sixteen years later, there are parenting moments when I’m just as unsure and scared as I was then. In many ways, I find parenting a high-schooler more stressful than parenting that infant. 


When it comes to high school, stress is ever-present. I just finished my sophomore year, and I can remember kids in my AP World History class breaking down and crying before the test, afraid of failing. These kids were in a bad place mentally due to the work that all their classes had put on them. Whether it was studying for End of Course exams, Finals, or the AP Exam, kids had plenty on their plate, and couldn’t handle it all.

I dealt with stress a lot this past year. Having a full honors class load, Jazz Band, and AP World History didn’t leave a lot of free time. I even had to get a tutor during the school year for the first time in my life. I spent some of my time just lying in bed thinking about all the things I had to do in such a little time.


It is a continual struggle to figure out what I need to do to ensure that the young man in my care is safe and happy. Parenting a sixteen-year-old is a constant balancing act—how much assistance is just enough, how much is too much, when do I need to ensure his success and when do I need to let him fail?


Malcolm_With_MicI feel like there are a few ways that parents can help with their child’s stress. My parents helped me by discussing my classes with me, getting me a tutor, and being supportive of me at all times. Without these things I feel like I wouldn’t have had the success through the past year of high school that I did. Parents need to understand that even though their high school students are young adults, they alone can’t exactly handle everything required.

Whether it was helping me organize my papers, going over every day’s work with me, or just helping me with my schoolwork, my parents always found the time to support me, and help me through the stress I was experiencing.


During this past year, Malcolm, my husband, and I found our balance through talking and shared decision-making. We determined which decisions Malcolm would make with our input and which we as the parents would make with his input.  It was wonderful to watch Malcolm succeed with his choices. It was tough for me to give up authority and see Malcolm make decisions that I thought weren’t the wisest. But, I was proud to see his growth when he dealt with the consequences of the choices that he made.


In conclusion I would like to say that the number one way that parents can help their child through stress is by being there for them. By supporting them and offering help, you can make high school as a whole lot easier for your kids.

Knox County GradNation Summit


Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear


On Monday, June 15, 2015, Partners for Education at Berea College, in partnership with AT&T and America’s Promise Alliance, convened a GradNation Community Summit in Knox County, Kentucky.   Our GradNation Community Summit’s goal was to fuel local action to increase high school graduation rates.  Over 155 educators, youth, business persons, parents and community members participated. Jane Beshear, First Lady of Kentucky, and Hasan Davis, youth advocate and former Commissioner of Juvenile Justice, provided remarks to set the stage for the community work that must be done to ensure the success of all youth in Knox County.

I had the pleasure of starting the event off by introducing our speakers. My son Malcolm participated as part of the student performers who presented their views. Here are our takeaways from the great day.


Malcolm Davis


Recently I was given the opportunity to work with several young people from Knox County, Kentucky. With the help of my partners and I, these young people created a presentation to showcase thoughts and challenges young people face trying to graduate from high school.


As Executive Director of Partners for Education at Berea College, I believe the voices of our youth are key to impacting high school graduation rates. We were determined to truly engage youth in our GradNation Summit.  Bob Martin, a local theater artist and cultural organizer, uses cultural organizing and story work to examine communities, to build dynamic partnerships and to bring people into creative collaboration. Bob and two youth facilitators – Maizie Barrett, 14 years old and Malcolm Davis, my 15 year old son– agreed to work with a small group of Knox County youth and assist them in sharing their stories during the Summit. In the week prior to the Summit, Bob, Maizie and Malcolm spent three days learning, listening and working alongside students from Lynn Camp High School and Knox Central High School.  During the Summit they facilitated a youth presentation and participated in the Story Circles.


I believe that this presentation was an exceptionally important piece to add to the Summit, and that it benefited the dialogue around high school graduation greatly. During the day, I heard adults reflect back on the youth’s words and stories.  The youth shared with me that they had truly felt heard.


A Story Circle

After our presentation, we each facilitated a Story Circle, where we participated in-group storytelling surrounding certain crisis areas that young people experience. I was placed into the crisis area “Engaging the Disengaged Student”, and was able to hear many great stories and conversations about helping young people become more active in their pursuit of knowledge.

Everyone around the circle had a great story that was relevant and moving concerning the topic. After the stories were shared, our group got together in what was called a Cross Talk. During this, we had time to ask questions pertaining to peoples stories, and talk about what information we wanted to bring to the entirety of the Summit about this topic.


Dreama Gentry


As Hasan Davis, the former commissioner of Juvenile Justice, told the crowd, “A belief and a hope for a better future for our children is not a substitute for action. We must each make a commitment to ensure that all of our children reach their greatest potential.” I measure the immediate success of our Summit in the willingness of folks to continue working to ensure the educational success of Knox County students.  By the end of the day, five action teams were formed, each team had identified specific strategies to implement, and over 55 persons had signed up to serve on an action team.


All in all, the Summit was an amazing opportunity for me and for the young adults that we engaged. We each shared our own challenges, learned about the challenges others face, and did our best to bring these challenges to the forefront of the minds of educators and community members from across Knox County.

My two takeaways from the Summit are, first, that young people need to be heard; and, second, there are a lot of people ready to listen and to help young kids make it through high school. 

Dreama Gentry is the Executive Director of Partners for Education at Berea College.  Malcolm Davis is a rising Junior at Berea Community High School.  From their perspectives as a mother and a son, Dreama and Malcolm blog about education.