November 20, 2005

Review of Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen

Jacob Schramm’s work with inner-city high school students is a validation of the latent potential of underprivileged youth. His involvement with young people is precisely the kind of work I would love to participate in. Further, his experiences offer helpful advice for me as I pour over the development of a like-minded organization as College Summit.

Among the more notable lessons from chapters thirteen and fourteen:

*Helping students succeed academically in high school is not the cure-all for getting them into college. Unguided by parents or counselors, students need assistance applying to and adjusting to college.

*Young people tend to see one another as critics, as social competitors. Getting students to recognize their familial, economic, and social similarities is vital to breaking down these barriers. Once they see they are all struggling with the same problems, they become sympathetic coaches and motivators.

*Colleges can’t always recognize high-potential students from poor communities. Once a student is released from the nagging problems of his environment (gangs, drugs, family problems, social pressures, etc.), however, he may become a truly capable learner.

*The stakeholders in educating young people are spread across all society, which makes it unreasonable to expect any one stakeholder to do what it takes to make underprivileged students get the help they need to succeed. Organizations that aim to provide assistance to these youth need to coordinate across all the stakeholders, including high schools, government social service agencies, neighborhoods, and so on.

*When students see their friends or role models getting prepared for and serious about their future education, they will feel more pressure to do the same. “In a school like this,” said Patricia Ludwig, a high school principal in Denver, Colorado, “the only achievement models kids have to identify with are the varsity athletes. The charismatic, respected leaders in school need to be the kids who are going to college.”

*Building an organization like College Summit requires champions in every city it spreads to. Further, College Summit needed to find cities that had a concentration of high schools, businesses, and colleges that would jointly endorse the organization. As David Bornstein goes into more detail in chapter fourteen, Ashoka ran into its own organizational predicaments when it tried to expand into nations (e.g., much of Africa and post-communist Eastern Europe) that were not ripe for social entrepreneurs or their work. Ashoka was forced to redevelop its expansion plans and strategic goals. Analogously, College Summit must identify and carefully plan and prepare for its expansion before committing to new operations.

*Providing financial guidance to students isn’t enough to get them into college and keep them there. Though early financial planning can make parents invested in their children’s education and pressure others to get serious about college, students need other forms of help as well (with, for example, resume building or application writing).

With these lessons in mind, I need to carefully mull over my own nonprofit idea.

at November 20, 2005 6:17 PM