Celebrity Bill Cosby did more than just talk about being a positive figure for children in the New Haven community last week; he showed students and faculty how. In one day, Cosby traveled to three venues and spread his message, encouraging urban youth to stay in school.
Cosby began his tour at Southern. He spoke to hundreds of students and faculty on the importance of getting involved in the New Haven community by teaching children the right way to behave.
“You sit here at this wonderful university, surrounded by gunfire. You instruct your students to be careful, yet we shouldn’t be afraid of these people. They should be welcomed. This should be the first and the last they think about coming to, “said Cosby.
Cosby’s visit to New Haven was sparked by Interim President Stanley F. Battle’s invitation. Battle said he has built a working relationship with Cosby and, together, has raised thousands of dollars for education. Money was not involved in the plans, according to Battle, Cosby came with no exchange of money, just to make positive changes. While announcing Cosby as an individual whose “commitment to education is true and unparalleled,” Battle spoke of a new program he will be developing called Southern Academy.
“We have one of the biggest achievement gaps in the country, we rank number 49,” said Battle. “We got in this mess and we have to get ourselves out of it.”
After speaking at the university, Cosby traveled to the King-Robinson International Baccalaureate Magnet School. King-Robinson is just around the corner from the university, and is the home of the kindergarten class Battle has adopted.
Through humor and wit, Cosby reached children from Pre-K to eighth grade. While Cosby had the room rolling with laughter, he didn’t leave before illustrating his message. Cosby asked children to promise him to ask their parents to come to their parent teacher conferences and parent teacher association meetings. Cosby told stories of his own childhood and appeared to make a strong connection with the children. He urged the students to strive to do well by doing their homework and listening to their teachers.
Cosby’s visit comes just weeks after New Haven Mayor John DeStefano unveiled the New Haven Promise Program. The program, funded by Yale University, will pay college tuition for New Haven students who attend public schools and meet requirements. These students need to make the grade first. Just outside the King-Robinson school was a large banner which read “New Haven Promise.” But according to Cosby, these kids need more than a program.
“People need to hear words but it needs stimulus. It’s not about money. People say, ‘oh we have a program but we need funds.’ No, you don’t,” said Cosby. “Talk to a child, volunteer yourself out there, say something to people.”
Cosby encouraged the Southern community to do just that by correcting a child when you witness bad behavior. Cosby said too many children are walking around using profanity the same as expressions such as ‘pass the salt.’ This behavior is detrimental and can easily be fixed if children are corrected. Cosby stressed that if children are raised by parents who simply want to be their child’s friend, they don’t know better.
“Children can’t be raised as our friends until they earn it,” said Cosby. “They don’t know right from wrong until they are taught it. You don’t hear a child complain if you don’t check the homework.”
Throughout the day, Cosby continued to stress the importance of parents getting involved in their child’s education. The final part of Cosby’s day was talking to those parents. Cosby walked the Newhallville neighborhood in New Haven, speaking to different people about raising their children the right way by stressing the importance of education and success.
“Without parent involvement, without parent participation, students can’t get the most from their education. Without parent involvement we have children who are failing,” said Cosby. “Find out what your child is doing in school, who your child is playing with.”
While Cosby attempted to knock on doors, he was surrounded by a mob of fans that walked the streets with him. The majority of onlookers were pleased to see Cosby in their community speaking about such an important issue.
Terrance Gary, who held his baby girl, grew up in the Newhallville neighborhood and said Cosby’s presence was anything but a negative.
“It gives the people the chance to know someone cares. That someone wants to give back because they care about them,” said Gary. “I really think about the older people here and I think they’ll inspire the kids to do right, even if it’s just for the day.”
There were some young teenagers, who could have been in school, home for the events. One young man, who was only 15, said Cosby told him to go back to school and to study hard. Cosby said the community needs to remain committed to education when he leaves.
“It gives me pleasure to do this but you don’t really need a Bill Cosby. The media needs to stay on it. We need the media to reward people doing well and tell the truth of problems that really exist,” said Cosby.
Through his visit, Cosby said he hopes gang members in New Haven realize they are harming their own children and realize the value of an education.