GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)– High school graduates earn a national average of 8-thousand dollars more annually compared to high school drop-outs, are more likely to stay employed, and improve the economic mobility of their families.

As part of 7NEWS’ “Community Conversations,” Anchor Taylor Murray spoke with Dr. Edward Anderson, the Executive Director of United Way’s OnTrack Greenville initiative, about breaking down the barrier of bias in education, so students don’t slip through the cracks and ultimately make it across the stage.

“I’ve gotten a lot better at telling my story, because it wasn’t the easiest, always,” Dr. Anderson said.

A walking testament to the power of education to open doors to a brighter future.

Dr. Edward Anderson is a success story of the Greenville County school system, but as a child, life had its challenges.

“My mother was a teenage mother here in Greenville county… when I was in fourth grade, my grandmother passed away. She was our breadwinner. She was the one who I actually call mother,” Dr. Anderson said.

Dr. Anderson recalls his family’s financial resources being stretched thin after a tragedy, but then support rushed in from an unexpected place.

“I can remember going back to school, and teachers were the consistent, positive people. They wrapped around me. They made sure that I was taken care of. They understood what was happening at home. They cared more than just about academics, but they cared about who I was.”

Dr. Edward Anderson, Executive Director, OnTrack Greenville

Dr. Anderson believes it was the unbiased support he received in the classroom which kept him from falling through the cracks.

Today, his story has come full circle.

He works to make sure other students have the same positive experience as the executive director for United Way’s OnTrack Greenville initiative.

“What we’re trying to do is be intentional, about resources aligning for students, so they can have better outcomes. Better outcomes for each individual student means better outcomes for our whole community,” Dr. Anderson said.

OnTrack Greenville intervenes when a child is struggling with attendance, behavior, or academic performance.

It helps them reach academic success through assisting schools, staff, families and working directly with students.

What is bias against people with disabilities?

Dr. Anderson is also passionate about addressing bias in education.

“Bias in education– I think most simply put is when one group of students is treated differently in an educational setting.”

Dr. Edward Anderson, Executive Director, OnTrack Greenville

This can happen, Dr. Anderson says, when people in the educational ecosystem, like teachers or staff, have stereotypes or a narrative built into their mind about a student that impacts the way they interact.

7News Anchor Taylor Murray asks “Why is it so important to acknowledge and address bias in education?”

“It couldn’t solve everything, because there’s so many other factors. But, what we could say is that we’re going to increase our chances, increase every student’s chances, of having every access point available to them, increase their opportunities to explore different careers and pathways,” Dr. Anderson said.

“Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference 2022”

Dr. Edward Anderson is one of more than a dozen community leaders who will speak at the upcoming “Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference” hosted by the Rotary Club of Greenville.

The annual conference will be held on May 12 at the Greenville Convention Center. This year’s theme is “Finding Peace in a World Full of Conflict and Bias.”

7NEWS Anchor Taylor Murray will serve as “Master of Ceremonies”.

If you are interested in attending, you can register at peaceandconflictresolution.com.

“Community Conversations” is a new 7NEWS series where we will be sitting down for one-on-one conversations with leaders, influencers, innovators, change agents and the movers and shakers of the Upstate community on topics that matter to you.