A Challenge to Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump

Ashley Trotman works in the IT Department at Citizen Schools, and was a student in the first apprenticeship pilot taught in 1995

"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of 'I do this and you give me cash.' Unless it's illegal."

- Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich has a strong opinion about inner-city kids. Now he and Donald Trump say they have an idea: to teach an apprenticeship to 11 New York City kids.

Citizen Schools has been organizing volunteer-taught apprenticeships in inner-city schools for 16 years. It’s a great idea. We’d love to have the two of them come in and bring learning to life.

But I must say, they won’t get far with Newt's mindset.

I grew up an inner city kid. Heck, I still am one at heart. I was raised in Dorchester.

But before I was born, my mother had already graduated from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.She did not get a full ride. It took her a decade to pay off each and every student loan, but she did it. You don’t get something for nothing – I learned that from her. Before we could watch TV on the weekends, my two brothers and I had to do homework that my mother left out on the table. And they had to help me with my homework as well, before we dreamed of watching Muppet Babies.

I already knew right from wrong. But in Citizen Schools, I also learned that if you want to be taken seriously, you have to be a serious person. When the adults of Citizen Schools took the time to listen to me and valued my opinions, it changed my life.

Fifteen years later, I am a technology professional—working at the national headquarters of Citizen Schools. And I teach my own apprenticeships, with students at two inner city schools in Malden and Roxbury. They taught me who Justin Bieber is, and I was able to show them what a “Zach Morris” phone is. We were all equally amazed at this new info.

I was told I had “problem students.” But I never viewed them as problem students, so we did not have a fight once. When I thanked my first class on the last day for their excellent behavior during the semester, one student raised her hand and said they respected us, because we respected them.

I challenge any adult to face some of the challenges that these 11-year-olds are facing on a daily basis and have the courage to wake up before the sun and work until after it goes down.

Or, if that’s too much, I challenge them to become a Citizen Teacher at one of our New York schools and see just exactly what our kids are made of. What will you teach?

I’m sure they’ll show Newt and Donald a thing or two—that is, if they take the time to listen.

“Knowing where something comes from changes how you feel about it.”

—Prof. Sut Jhally, UMass Amherst