We are grateful to have Derek Richardson as one of our community partners. Richardson is also the founder of the non-profit Why Can’t We Make a Difference? and has done amazing work in the community, committed to providing underprivileged kids with opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.
What was your motivation for founding Why Can’t We Make a Difference?
The students and families we serve are similar to my family and the community I was raised in. There isn’t a challenge I haven’t seen or experienced from those we serve. I was raised by a single mother after my father and mother divorced, and my dad died on my birthday when I turned 14. I was sexually molested by a neighborhood karate coach, I have a learning disability (ADHD), my mother has a gambling addiction, I dealt with low self-esteem problems. Because of a great extended family, my 6th grade teacher Ms. Price held me accountable and used sports (Basketball) to motivate me to enjoy school. My basketball Coach, Ted Gustus who is now one of my best friends, through love and protection, healed the wounds and baggage I have been caring. I became a college graduate because as a youth, all my mother said to me was, boy you are going to college. I can go on and on. This is what drives me, I want to give children the same opportunity others gave me to be as happy and balanced as possible.
What types of services does the foundation provide?
We currently provide a before school Morning Mentoring program, Art, Chess, Choir, Performing Arts. All of our instructors live in the nearby neighborhood and are caring and loving and the students buy into our programs. Plus they are professionals. Our art instructor is Kenneth Gatewood, the world famous Watercolor Artist. Better Known as Mr. Kenny. Our students buy into our program and instructors because our instructors care about them. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Our students and parents know their children are in a loving, safe, caring environment.
What do you think is the biggest factor for the kid’s decrease in academic and emotional interest in underserved schools, and why?
Our children do not receive a balanced academic curriculum. They have minimal enrichment classes offered, but the Independent schools and private schools offer the enrichment program we offer as part of their normal curriculum. Secondly, if classes are offered, the teachers don’t educate the students in a way they may understand. They don’t understand the community. For example, when Nipsy Hussle was killed our children were in mourning, they were hurting, the district music teacher didn’t understand this, and taught the planned curriculum. Our choir and performing art instructors, a husband and wife, team talked to the students and allowed them to express their feelings. The children in disenfranchised communities learn differently, but the curriculum is set up for everyone to be taught equally. We must understand, we can’t treat everyone equally or the same. There is a difference between equal and equitable, I love my children dearly, but I don’t treat my daughter the same as my son, they are different, I try to adjust to their needs. Our students basic needs aren’t met in school with people who understand the trauma they go through. We can talk about this in detail. All of this is a cause of why there isn’t an emotional interest in school.
Outside of Why Can’t We Make a Difference? Richardson is an NBA Referee completing his 23rd season. Thank you Derek for all of your support in CS@SC Summer Camps and committing yourself to cultivating a positive, enriching environment for students.