Friday, May 15, 2009

Mr. Chairman, the best stimulus package is a diploma

"For a young person, dropping out is a million dollar mistake. For our
country, cutting in half the dropout rate would contribute over $45 billion to our economy. Mr. Chairman, the best stimulus package is a diploma. Our children and their education deserve to be our highest priority. They are the only future we have." -- Marguerite Kondracke, America's Promise Alliance President and CEO

This message was delivered in testimony before Congress this week. Read more.

If we want to keep teens in school, we need to build non school support systems, like Cabrini Connections, and have them available for many years, and in every neighborhood with high poverty. They need to reach kids starting in elementary schools, and connected with age appropriate learning and mentoring throughout high school. Read the new P/PV study on the Boys and Girls Clubs, which illustrates the importance of "places" where youth are supported for multiple years.

We need incentives that encourage businesses to invest employee time, talent and dollars as resources in strategies that PULL kids from many different neighborhoods, up pipelines that lead to jobs and careers. We need thousands of non-school places where staff, volunteers are PUSHING kids to stay in school, make healthy decisions, and move to 21st century jobs and careers.

The best stimulus would be $25,000 to $50,000 in donations going this month, JUNE, and JULY, to keep people on payroll in these programs, and keep them operating, so kids and volunteers now finishing the 2008-09 school year are still connected when the 2009-10 school year starts.

Without using maps, like this one, to see where poverty, poor schools, and high drop out rates are most concentrated, leaders, and generals (like the President), won't distribute resources consistently into all the neighborhoods, and all the places (tutor/mentor programs included) where these dollars, and volunteer talent, are needed.

Mr. President, and others who care about the drop out crisis, I urge you to browse the articles on this blog, and look at the maps at our mapping blog. Use these, and the links on our web sites, to educate the American people, so that volunteer service is more than random acts of kindness or responses to personal or environmental disasters. Educate the public to make a long-term commitment, in many places, to provide the type of supports that keep kids in school and headed to careers.

What you invest will be less than the costs to America of not taking this role.

Then use the new interactive program locator to build resource distribution strategies from businesses, faith groups, political districts and colleges/hospitals, directly to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs operating in different parts of the Chicago region.

In some cases there are no programs. In some cases the programs may not be as good as they need to be. However, your challenge, Mr. President, and Mr. Business leader, is to help each program grow to be great, as Jim Collins suggests in his book "Good to Great and the Social Sectors", and as business leaders know, from building their own companies.

Here's a strategy map you might borrow for your own leadership. Just replace the blue box saying "tutor/mentor connection" with your own company or leadership name. See if the actions mapped don't make sense for you as a leader. If they do, use them. We'll benefit at Cabrini Connections. So will thousands of other youth all over the country.

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