Archives For July 2012

A winning story in Pittsburgh

The Pirates are the rage in Pittsburgh this summer and are well on their way to their best season in 20 years.

But they’re not the only winning story in town.  The players will do just fine regardless of the team’s success.  For many others in Pittsburgh, however, getting ahead hinges on receiving help.

ACTION – the Allegheny Council to Improve Our Neighborhoods – is an organization that offers such help.  It provides access to decent and affordable housing to enable low-income people to become more secure and self-sufficient.  ACTION also offers support services, an asset building program, and educational and employment opportunities.

Check out the array of development projects the organization is undertaking across Pittsburgh.  Learn more about its recent work to revitalize the Uptown neighborhood.

If you are interested in making a donation, you can do so here.

Jobs for the hardest to employ


From Cellblock C to CEO…This version of the American dream can’t really be possible?

You would have good reason to think not.  After all, a prison record significantly hurts a person’s prospects for future employment.  A felony conviction is particularly stigmatizing for black men.

But this isn’t just a dream; it’s a reality for many people.  The Center for Employment Opportunities — aka CEO — provides employment services to those typically seen as unemployable because they have recent criminal records.

This organization — which has various sites across New York as well as in California and Oklahoma — matches former inmates with opportunities that lead them on a path to success rather than the all-too-likely alternative: persistent joblessless leading to recidivism.

The proof is in the pudding.  CEO has a track record of enabling such people to move into paid transitional jobs that lead to full-time opportunities.  In fact, over its history these transitional placements have led to over 14,000 full-time jobs!  The success of this nonprofit has garnered much-deserved attention right up to The White House.


* Providing a job opening for a CEO participant.
* The organization greatly appreciates and values your donations.

The best investment we can make

In the wake of last week’s horrific shooting in Aurora, now is an especially crucial time to sing the praises of something really good that is happening in Colorado.

Today’s post isn’t quite like many of the others on this blog.  It’s not about an organization that is helping kids in tough circumstances to turn their lives around.  Instead, it’s about kids getting help from the earliest possible age so that they may avoid those tough circumstances altogether.

Let’s face it: The odds are not great for kids born into low-income families.  By the time they reach age 2, so many have already become another statistic in the academic achievement gap.  But these odds can be reversed.

Wild Plum Center for Young Children & Families, based in Longmont, enables kids born with the deck stacked against them to overcome as many barriers to their development and education as possible.  The goal is a simple yet crucial one: to prepare them to enter kindergarten at age five.

Among the valuable programs this organization offers is Head Start, an intensive early childhood enrichment program that has been proven to promote kindergarten readiness.

Supporting an enriched early childhood education for the population of kids Wild Plum serves is one of the best investments we can make.  In enabling these kids to avert future turmoil in their lives and be on the path to a successful future, we actually save money.  These kids grow up to be productive contributors to our economy rather than expenses for our criminal justice and social welfare systems.

Here’s how you can volunteer or make a donation.

Resiliency to tough circumstances

Wow, that looks like a great way to cool off on a hot summer day!

Maybe for some kids.  But not for many others who don’t get the chance to experience the great outdoors.  And what they miss out on during the summer is just a small indication of the disadvantages they experience all year.

A great way to mitigate these hardships is by identifying and providing opportunties to those low-income youth who already exhibit some resiliency to their life circumstances.  This is the goal of Summer Search, which has sites in Seattle, the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.

This nonprofit inspires already-resilient low-income high school students to become responsible and altruistic leaders  Here are ways the organization makes opportunity available to these youngsters:

*Year-round mentoring by full-time trained staff builds students’ resilience, helping them learn to cultivate relationships, become self-reflective, and navigate the challenges in their lives.

*Full scholarships to summer experiential education programs like Outward Bound and the National Outdoor Leadership School strengthen students’ follow-through, leadership, and problem solving, all of which translates to success in high school and college.

*Individualized college and financial aid advising helps students pursue post-secondary school.

*Resources for students in and after college support strong academic performance, college persistence, and career exploration.

Check out the results…they’re pretty impressive.  So many success stories!

Ways You Can Get Involved:

Refer students to the program
* Attend events
* Provide internships
* Donate money

A brighter future for homeless youth

There’s lots of reason for optimism about how much positive change can occur in the lives of economically disadvantaged youth.  So many nonprofits around the U.S. are enabling these youth to access opportunity.

So, don’t be dispirited by this week’s news about growing opportunity gaps between what wealthier and poorer families provide for their kids and the growing unlikelihood that lower-income kids will experience social mobility over their lifetimes.

Personal transformations can and do happen all the time – it just takes the work of innovative organizations providing consistent support, encouragement, and mentorship.

Every day in Southern Arizona Youth on Their Own makes significant inroads in changing for the better the lives of kids for whom it might seem little can be done: homeless teens.   They not only lack the warmth of a stable home but often times also experience a combination of violence, neglect, and substance abuse.  Yet, this organization is defying the odds.  It enables these kids to stay in high school, graduate, and in some cases go on to college.  Students who demonstrate a positive work ethic and receive good grades receive financial assistance, basic needs, and guidance as they work to obtain their diplomas.

There are so many stories of how Youth On Their Own has helped these kids to better their lives.  See for yourself!

Over the years, the organization has enabled over 10,000 young people to graduate from high school and go on to become productive and self-sufficient members of their communities.  This is no small thing in Arizona, which has the highest dropout rate of any state in the U.S.

Want even more reason to be excited?  Check out this news story about Youth on Their Own this past May.

There are many ways you can help out:

Donate supplies
Give money
Hold an event
Host a speaking engagement

A life of success, not imprisonment

What lies in store for children who have one, and sometimes both, of their parents in prison?

Unfortunately, their odds of having a promising future aren’t great.

There are over 7 million such children in the U.S, about 70 percent of whom are also likely to spend time behind bars…that is, unless they get the right type of help.

This is where the Amachi mentoring program comes in.  It offers these kids opportunities that thwart the likelihood that they too will live a life of crime.  Its secret lies in carefully matching kids with mentors and ensuring that they meet weekly.

The organization began in Philadelphia and is directed by the city’s former mayor W. Wilson Goode.  It now runs 250 mentoring programs across the 48 states, having served over 100,000 children since 2000.  Learn more.

Want to get involved?

* Become a mentor.
* Start an Amachi program in your area.
* Recommend a child whom you think would benefit from the program.

Please contact

Preparing youth for good jobs

The liberal arts are getting a bad rap these days.  Rising tuition costs coupled with the uncertainty that a bachelors degree will lead to a good job are causing many to ask whether the investment is worth it.

I teach at a public university and therefore benefit from the “college for all” movement that has swept the nation in recent years.  Yet, I am among those who are increasingly skeptical about whether so many young people should be encouraged to go to college.

Much more needs to be done to promote job training to help those for whom pursuing a four-year degree just isn’t a sensible path to take, as Joe Nocera’s op-ed in last week’s New York Times persuasively pointed out.  Since so many of these kids come from lower-income families, such training must be made affordable.

This is why the work of Venture Scholars is so vital.  This Portland nonprofit enables young people to access good jobs in Oregon and elsewhere.  It awards scholarships of up to $4,000 to high school seniors who are motivated to attain post-secondary training but are interested in acquiring technical training rather than a four-year liberal arts degree.  They may use the scholarship to attend either a community college or training institute, with the goal of entering the workforce upon graduation.

In the near future about half of all openings will be for positions that require specialized post-secondary training but not a four-year college degree: jobs such as dental hygienists, construction managers, electricians, health technologists, paralegals, and nurses.  These positions are actually expected to grow faster than the subset of the U.S. population that is currently qualified to fill them.

Venture Scholars is playing a key role in mitigating this skills gap.  Hear testimonials of how it is preparing young people for good jobs.

This organization is supported by Social Venture Partners Portland.  Learn how you can become a partner.

Turning economic disadvantages into successes

Americans have long seen charity as a way of offering second chances to those experiencing hardship. Given how many people are down on their luck these days due to the economic downturn, now is an especially important time to help out — that is, if you can afford to do so.

One nonprofit in San Diego — aptly named Second Chance — is doing really important work and getting results.  The organization creates opportunities for those who have experienced unemployment, poverty, or have spent time behind bars.  It offers an array of programs to enable people to overcome these significant barriers to entering the workforce.  They get help with job readiness and job placement and, if needed, are provided mental health and financial literacy services.

Take a look at what Second Chance has accomplished.  Over 70% of the graduates of its STRIVE program have attained employment and 70% have retained their jobs over two years.

Tune in to The Sundance Channel in August to watch “Get to Work”, an 8-part documentary filmed at Second Chance and based on its successes.

Here’s how you can enable economically disadvanted people in San Diego to gain access to the American dream.

This is, plain and simple, a good investment.  Each dollar given to Second Chance yields a return of $5 to the community in the form of taxes paid and reduced incarceration costs.  Now that’s bang for your buck!