BTW’s Connection to the Community

By Nikitra Hamilton, BA, M.ED., MLS

HOUSTON – What are considered some of the most important needs in relationship to the human experience? Most of us cannot answer this question earnestly because we probably are reading this article from the warmth of our own homes or offices.

As a result, the mind tends to lend itself to wants disguised as needs:  A better place to live, a better vehicle to drive, a better education for our children, more money in our savings accounts, or just the desire to make enough money to start a savings account!  Unfortunately, none of these items are qualified as needs, THEY ARE ALL CONSIDERED TO BE WANTS.  Many of us are far removed from what it feels like to have a need go UNMET.

If you can remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs the most basic of needs are overlooked by our society; unless we witness a blatant from like homelessness.  In this way, we cannot turn away, but gaze and wonder, how did this person get to this point in life?  Clearly, the individual was not born in this manner, so how did he or she end up in this position? 

Maslow was a psychologist who determined that our needs are based on a hierarchy, and when any need goes unmet, then a domino effect of problems begin to ensue.

The first of Maslow’s theory begins with Physiological Needs, which are biological requirements for human survival, e.g., air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sleep. If these needs are not satisfied the human body cannot function optimally.  Maslow considered physiological needs the most important as all the other needs become secondary until these needs are met.

The second need is Safety, which is protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.  The third, Love and Belongingness Needs, after physiological and safety needs have been fulfilled, the third level of human needs is social and involves feelings of belongingness.  The need for interpersonal relationships motivates behavior, which include friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group like family, friends, and work.

The fourth, Esteem Needs, which Maslow classified into two categories:  esteem for oneself via dignity, achievement, mastery, independence, and the desire for reputation or respect from others via status, and prestige. Maslow indicated that the need for respect or reputation is most important for children and adolescents and precedes real self-esteem or dignity.

The fifth and final, Self-Actualization Needs, which includes realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.  A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming” (Maslow, 1987, p.64).

So, how do we handle this realization at Booker T. Washington High School?  Via our Secret Weapon, Mr. Francisco Rivera.  He is our Wrap Around Resource Specialist, better known as our direct connect to our community and our community business owners. Mr. Rivera leads the BTW Community Council of twenty plus members, along with our principal, Dr. Carlos Philips III. These meetings are held once per month to address and find solutions to campus and community issues.

In less than a year, Mr. Rivera had identified needs of our students of color, aligned sponsorships, and has created some of the most powerful relationships in our community. Mr. Rivera meets the primary needs of shelter, food, clothing, and sleep via our bi-weekly, Eagles  Market, which is a partnership with the Houston Food Bank, where parents, students, community and staff members are provided with free food twice per month.

The student volunteers operate the market and simultaneously learn the basics of community service.  In addition, several hundred of our students were each provided with $40 vouchers donated by Fiesta for school uniforms, students were also given rental assistance, and provided with forms of temporary shelter.

The second need which is based on safety and freedom from fear has also been addressed on our campus.  Mr. Rivera oversees the TAPS Program (Teens and Police Service Academy), where our students have partnered with local police officers to speak earnestly and hold open dialogue about the violence that has recently been perpetrated against minority males.  This program has graduated several of our students, who now feel respected, and have a renewed positive relationship with local police.  He has also sponsored TEEN Court via Judge Eric Carter, that allows our students to be heard, and truly get a real-life glimpse into our justice system.

Maslow’s third need, Love and Belonging, has been met via several clubs organized by Mr. Rivera: Chess Club (Tournament at Selena Park), Junior Achievement (56 students attended field trip), Student led Mental Health Programs, and the formation of our Soccer Team.  Students of all races feel empower through these common interests.

Maslow indicated that the need for respect or reputation is most important for children and adolescents and precedes real self-esteem or dignity.  In short, the fourth and fifth of need, which surrounds Esteem for Oneself and Self-Actualization via dignity, achievement, mastery, independence, and the desire for respect from others, along with self-fulfillment, and seeking personal growth has been met on our campus as well.  By assisting our minority males with their education, Mr. Rivera, collaborates with HCC on bringing ELS/GED and other adult educational needs, he sponsors a U of H Field Trip (2nd annual men of color), assistance programs for pregnant teens, and he is currently working on creating a ten week long Spoken Word, DJ, and Rap Program that will expand the Arts and build self-confidence.

Unbeknownst to our outgoing and eager Wrap Around Specialist, he is a die-hard advocate of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Not because he has undergone an extensive study of this information, but simply because he is deeply empathetic to the needs of our student body, and- he too- knows what it feels like to live in a similar environment with similar circumstances.  We are beyond grateful to have Mr. Rivera as a part of the Booker T. Washington Family, and his work does not go unnoticed!


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