Archives For June 2012

Helping kids see the light in school

We’re a far cry from the days when youth with just a high school diploma — and sometimes even without a diploma — could move into decent-paying jobs that enabled them to make a down payment on a home and pay for college.  Given the ever-growing need in today’s economy for people to acquire post-secondary skills, the fact that so many kids continue to drop out of high school is a crisis that demands serious attention.

One organization that is effectively taking action is Dallas Community Lighthouse.  It provides support and guidance to low-income youth in grades K-8 to build their self-esteem and encourage them to stay in school.  Students receive tutoring in core subjects like math, language arts; and they also benefit from consistent adult mentorship, which is something they often do not get at home.

Learn more about Dallas Community Lighthouse’s programs and how they are making a difference in motivating young people to stay in school.

And find out how you can volunteer your time or donate money to help mitigate the dropout crisis in the Dallas area.

In St. Louis the road to opportunity starts at home

There is only one nonprofit in the St. Louis area that provides acccess to affordable housing as well as an array of other educational and employment services to needy families: Beyond Housing.  As its name suggest, the organization sees housing as a first step in community-wide rebuilding efforts.

An exciting part of its current work is the “24:1 Initiative,” an effort by elected officials, residents, community-based organizations, and area businesses to revitalize the 24 inner-ring suburban communities located entirely or partly within the geography of the Normandy School District in St. Louis County.  These communities are coming together with the shared vision of strengthening neighborhoods.  The 24:1 Initiative was featured in a 2011 White House report.

Want to be part of the solution?

Beyond Housing has an array of volunteer opportunities, many of which do not require special skills.  These include cleaning, repairing, painting, and landscaping homes. Learn more about these opportunities.  You can also donate online.

For poor first-time families, a way to get the right start

The array of disadvantages so many kids face from the moment they come into the world are mind-boggling.  Some half million children are born in the U.S. each year to first-time mothers who lack the resources to care for them adequately.

For these mothers, fortunately Nurse Family Partnership is there to help.  This nonprofit with locations across the U.S. works to improve the health, well-being, and self-sufficiency of both them and their children.  The program provides education and support that continues throughout the child’s first two years of life.

Research shows this approach works, not just in improving babies’ health outcomes in the short run but in helping to ensure that these kids grow up to become productive citizens.

Learn how your donations can positively change the lives of mothers and babies.  Nurse Family Partnership has earned 4 stars from Charity Navigator, the highest rating.

Narrowing the academic achievement gap in LA

Rodney King’s death on Monday reminds us of the stark inequalities that pervade U.S. cities.  The spotlight was on LA 20 years ago when riots broke out following the acquittal of four police officers on charges that they had excessively beaten him.

Let’s keep the spotlight there but this time for a positive reason: the significant work being done by Synergy Academies to narrow the city’s academic achievement gap.  The organization operates 3 high-quality public charter schools in South LA, which is one of the lowest performing districts within the city’s public school system.  Check out the results these schools are getting!








Want to get involved?

  • See how donating even small amounts of money can make a difference in reducing the achievement gap in Los Angeles.
  • Give while you shop! Register your credit cards so that a portion of your purchases will benefit Synergy.
  • Synergy is looking for professionals in STEM-related careers to speak to students about their job experience.  Learn more.

Breaking the cycle of homelessness in Minneapolis

Two things that inspire me which may seem completely unrelated are bike riding (especially this time of year) and publicizing exciting ways that low-income people can access employment opportunty.

There’s an interesting connection between the two…an organization called Full Cycle.  This is no ordinary bike shop, for it employs homeless youth.  They not only learn how to repair bikes but also get hands-on business skills including resume writing, interviewing skills, and knowledge about sales and customer service.

See for yourself how this innovative nonprofit in Minneapolis is changing lives for the better!

Learn how donating money or a bike can help Full Cycle fulfill its mission.

A dignified place to call home

If rolling lawns, a large community garden, and ivy-league style architecture aren’t quite the images that come to mind when you think of affordable housing, think again.

Last week I visited a place right near the university where I teach that is all of these things and much more.  Bethany Hill School, though not technically a “school” is a place where its residents learn quite a bit.  In addition to living in comfortable housing that is variably-sized to accommodate for different family types, residents also get the chance to forge community with one another.  There are opportunities to congregate socially, beef up their computer skills, drop off kids in a fun-filled play space, and of course tend the garden together.

Seeing this place completely shattered my image of housing for the chronically homeless!

Young people need skills, but not necessarily college

A new report released today by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development highlights the especially bleak job prospects facing high school graduates.  Just 16 percent of the classes of 2099-11 had full-time employment.  Even though things were considerably better prior to the Great Recession, even during the few years beforehand just 37 percent of high school grads were employed full time.

This is NEWS in the sense that we don’t hear these kinds of numbers very often.  We are reminded almost daily what a terrible time college grads are having making a go of it as their debts pile up.  So, college may not be the answer for the millions of unemployed or under-employed high school graduates who need help.

We need to direct our attention instead to ways of providing these youth with post-secondary skills other than college.  Earlier this week I made mention of YouthBuild’s many successes in training young people in construction trades.  I have also previously discussed the successful work of Future Chefs in preparing youth for careers in the culinary arts.  There ARE pathways to opportunity for high school graduates; they just may not involve the ivory tower.