Dear Family and Friends,
I have been thinking a lot lately about Sarge Shriver. His death last month ended a long incredibly productive inspirational life. Sarge was the first Director of the Peace Corps. Stories of his leadership and amazing energy are still very much alive in The Peace Corps world. Peace Corps Ecuador was lucky enough to host Sarge and Eunice Kennedy Shriver when they visited Ecuador. I didn’t know how to act in the presence of my hero. I guess I figured it out, and had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Sarge was everything I had read and heard, and so much more. He inspired me, my staff and our volunteers – and how he made us laugh. Sarge inspired many of my generation to be idealistic, to care about poverty and education and other people, wherever they lived or whatever language they spoke.
Today I’m surrounded by a new wave of inspiration. I’m writing to ask each of you to support their work and the children they serve. I’m working with a new generation of men and women who are committed to service and civic action. They want to change the course of urban education. They know that every school day, about 7,000 students decide to drop out of school – a total of 1.2 million students each year – and only about 70% of entering high school freshman graduate every year. Without a high school diploma, young people are less likely to succeed in the workforce. Each year, our nation loses $319 billion in potential earnings associated with the dropout crisis.
Students at risk of dropping out of school can be identified as early as sixth grade by reviewing records of attendance, behavior, and course failure. Research has demonstrated that by making learning environments safe and relevant, better engaging parents and their communities in schools, and helping students get back on-track academically, the dropout rate can be lowered. And that’s exactly what Citizen Schools’ young educators are doing.
Citizen Schools has developed partnerships with urban middle schools in 37 cities throughout the country. In Boston, we are working in the most underserved schools bringing a “second shift” of educators to extend the learning year for our students by 400 hours. Our teachers provide homework help, academic support and an exciting menu of apprenticeships taught by citizens who have a passion for science, or cooking, or law and want to share it with middle schoolers. I wish that you all could see the faces of parents as they watch their children, having been coached by lawyers from one of a dozen top Boston firms present their mock trial arguments at the Federal Court House before Federal judges! The images of pride and promise are extraordinary.
It is moments like these that motivate our teachers to stick with it day after day- to make phone calls home to parents when a child isn’t at school, to listen to the worries of their students, to offer uncompromising belief that the effort they apply now in middle school- no matter how begrudgingly- will in fact lead to outcomes they may never have imagined. Outcomes which include college, career, and a wide array of life options.
If you’d like to see a terrific NBC news story on Citizen Schools, please click here .
Thank you very much for supporting my work at Citizen Schools. If you are able to contribute financially, honestly, any amount helps.
Yours in Service,