Saturday, September 12, 2009

I have to select an area Non-Profit to do my final project on for my current class. I have to meet with their executive director (or someone in a similar position), interview them, tour their location, and then present my project to the class. Tomorrow we have to come to class with 3 possibilities. I chose:

~ Crossroads which is based in the South suburbs and does anti-racism training for organizations.

~ Wings which provides shelter, education, guidance & support to homeless/abused women & children (I knew of them because a thrift store near my house where I shop sometimes is a Wings thrift store – all money supports the org)

~ Roseland Community “Good News” Daycare which has an awesome story . . . it’s run by a lady who was a pregnant teen years ago . . . she began providing childcare for local teens who were likely to drop out of school. She provided free care, food & diapers if the mom couldn’t pay. The daycare has grown into a great organization. My friend Alicia told me about her a while ago.

In related news, last week I sent an email to Leonard Pitts from the Miami Herald (a columnist I’ve read for years), nominating the Roseland Daycare as an organization he should profile for his “What Works” column. What Works is a look at programs around the U.S. that are doing good things for children in need, specifically Black kids. Of course I didn’t bother to read the DATES of the articles that highlighted great organizations, so I didn’t realize that he ran this series of columns a couple years ago (doh!) & they’re just posted as archives.

Anyway – if you’re interested in reading about some great nation-wide organizations that are doing great things, google Leonard Pitts Miami Herald and start reading. You may eventually be asked to create an account to continue reading but it’s free and took me about 30 seconds to do it. You have to opt IN for any newsletters/emails so don’t worry about getting spammed by creating an account.

Here is the text from his final article on the series, dated July 7, 2008. (Also - the Harlem Children's Zone has connections in both curriculum & training to the people where I work who are running an elementary school here on Chicago's West Side, the Garfield Park Preparatory Academy).

We Know What Works – Now Let’s Do It by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

This will be the last What Works column.

I reserve the right to occasionally report on any program I run across that shows results in saving the lives and futures of African-American kids. But this is the last in the series I started 19 months ago to spotlight such programs.

Let me begin by thanking you for your overwhelming response to my request for nominations, and to thank everyone from every program who allowed me to peek behind the scenes. From the Harlem Children's Zone in New York to SEI (Self-Enhancement, Inc.) in Portland, Ore., I have been privileged and uplifted to see dedicated people doing amazing work.

I am often asked whether I've found common denominators in all these successful programs, anything we can use in helping kids at risk. The short answer is, yes. You want to know what works?

Longer school days and longer school years work. Giving principals the power to hire good teachers and fire bad ones works. High expectations work. Giving a teacher freedom to hug a child who needs hugging works. Parental involvement works. Counseling for troubled students and families works. Consistency of effort works. Incentives work. Field trips that expose kids to possibilities you can't see from their broken neighborhoods, work.

Indeed, the most important thing I've learned is that none of this is rocket science. We already know what works. What we lack is the will to do it. Instead, we have a hit-and-miss patchwork of programs achieving stellar results out on the fringes of the larger, failing, system. Why are they the exception and not the rule?

If we know what works, why don't we simply do it?

Nineteen months ago when I started, I asked Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone why anyone should pay to help him help poor kids in crumbling neighborhoods. He told me, "Someone's yelling at me because I'm spending $3,500 a year on 'Alfred.' Alfred is 8. OK, Alfred turns 18. No one thinks anything about locking him up for 10 years at $60,000 a year."

Amen. Forget the notion of a moral obligation to uplift failing children. Consider the math instead. If that investment of $3,500 per annum creates a functioning adult who pays taxes and otherwise contributes to the system, why would we pass that up in favor of creating, 10 years later, an adult who drains the system to the tune of $60,000 a year for his incarceration alone, to say nothing of the other costs he foists upon society?

How does that make sense? Nineteen months later, I have yet to find a good answer.

Instead, I find passivity. Save The Children, Marvin Gaye exhorted 27 years ago. But we are losing the children in obscene numbers. Losing them to jails, losing them to graves, losing them to illiteracy, teen parenthood, and other dead-ends and cul-de-sacs of life. But I have yet to hear America -- or even African America -- scream about it. Does no one else see a crisis here?

"I don't think that in America, especially in black America, we can arrest this problem unless we understand the urgency of it, " says Tony Hopson, Sr., founder of SEI. "When I say urgency, I'm talking 9/11 urgency, I'm talking Hurricane Katrina urgency, things that stop a nation. I don't think in black America this is urgent enough. Kids are dying every single day. I don't see where the NAACP, the Urban League, the Black Caucus, have decided that the fact that black boys are being locked up at alarming rates, [means] we need to stop the nation and have a discussion about how we're going to eradicate that as a problem. It has not become urgent enough. If black America don't see it as urgent enough, how dare us think white America is going to think it's urgent enough?"

In other words, stand up. Get angry. Stop accepting what is clearly unacceptable. I'll bet you that works, too.

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