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Teacher Marva Collins was one of the most influential education activists of the 20th century, working to gain equal access for minorities to quality education.
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"I say, 'It never dawned on me that they couldn't learn it.' Kids don't fail. Teachers fail, school systems fail. The people who teach children that they are failures, they are the problem."
Not surprisingly, Marva Collins and her school became a national story. Time and Newsweek came calling, so did 60 Minutes and Good Morning America. In 1982,
As it grew, Collins moved her school out of her home and to a new location on Chicago's South Side. In time Marva's children, Patrick and Cynthia, worked for her and the school. In addition, other schools bearing her name have opened in Ohio and Florida. Collins' students are now doctors, lawyers, and educators.
By the mid 1990s, Marva Collins had become a valued speaker, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for her appearances, much of it getting redirected to her school. Collins, who has authored several books, has also been celebrated with awards such as the Jefferson Award for Benefiting the Disadvantaged; the Humanitarian Award for Excellence; as well as honorary doctorates from schools like Amherst, Dartmouth, and Notre Dame. In 2004, President Bush honored her with National Humanities Medal.
Sadly, in 2008, due to a lack of resources of community support, Westside Preparatory School closed its doors. Enrollment had dropped from 130 to about 30 in recent years. But with thousands of her students placed in jobs and attending colleges around the country, Collins' impact on the American school system, and the lives she helped turn around, continues.
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