By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager
The truth about education and the economy is direct, piercing – one dramatically influences the other.
To further drive home the point, there’s this: Educational achievement strongly predicts economic growth throughout the United States. Lack of education is highly correlated with unemployment and poverty.
Those are sobering facts when you consider that by the year 2020, 64 percent of jobs in the US will require education beyond high school, and 35 percent will require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Yet in Dallas only 13 percent of high school students graduate with the readiness to succeed in a post-secondary educational environment. This issue is essential to the economic condition and the welfare of our city and state.
But there is hope. And where there is hope, there is opportunity.
An auditorium filled with business, community and civic leaders who want to make a difference were moved by two hours of anecdotes, problems and proposed solutions during the “Educational Attainment: A Pathway to Prosperity” forum Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Speakers painted a passionate picture that helped to humanize the numbers and offered concrete, feasible answers. The call-to-action tone of the event was clearly set by a welcome from Alfreda B. Norman, Senior Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and an inspiring address by Rob Kaplan, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Guest speakers and presenters included Florence Shapiro, Board of Trustees, Communities Foundation of Texas; Ann Stern, President, Houston Endowment; Gigi Antoni, President and CEO, Big Thought; Todd Williams, Executive Director, The Commit! Partnership; and Gerald Chertavian, Founder and CEO, Year Up.
Opportunity quickly became the morning’s buzzword. Antoni talked about the opportunity gap that unsteadies the educational playing field. Children living in poverty are affected by the opportunity gap almost three times as much as kids living in better resourced environments.
Chertavian, whose Year Up will expand to Dallas this fall, delivered this potent sentence: “Talent is distributed everywhere, but opportunity is not.” Year Up is all about a new opportunity. The organization takes young adults, think 18-24, who are disconnected, under-educated, and chronically under-employed but are seeking a chance to change.
Year Up works with these young adults, and in one year’s time they are equipped with the marketable skills and support that makes them ready for a professional job. Year Up partners with leading US employers that need the very talent they are grooming for success.
Shapiro emphasized the burgeoning Early College High School concept in Texas (108 campuses so far), while Stern touted the EMERGE-HISD program that prepares talented Houston ISD students from under-served communities to attend and graduate from top colleges and universities. EMERGE has an 80 percent success rate.
Antoni offered innovative opportunities for children to experience the benefits of summer learning. She focused on Dallas City of Learning and its work with LRNG, the national endeavor to close the opportunity gap by transforming how young people access and experience learning.
In its pilot summer of 2014, 45 percent of the students participating in Dallas City of Learning were economically disadvantaged. In summer 2015, that number jumped to 70 percent. Through local program partners and online experiences, students can tap into new interests, develop new skills and explore and expand existing interests.
Dallas City of Learning is an initiative that is a true public-private citywide commitment convened by both the City of Dallas and Dallas ISD, managed by Big Thought, and supported by a large network of organizations such as museums, libraries, parks, rec centers and neighborhood organizations. Big Thought sincerely thanks its DCOL donors for generous support.
Opportunity kept spirits high at the forum. Where there is opportunity, there is triumph. Investing in the opportunities that advance educational attainment for young people is putting money into our future. That’s always hopeful.