Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”
~Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go!
At America's Promise Alliance, our work is shaped by the belief that access to five fundamental resources, which we call the “Five Promises,” is integral to the success of children. The Five Promises are caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, an effective education, and opportunities to help others. According to our website, “Children who receive at least four of the Five Promises are much more likely than those who experience only one or zero Promises to succeed academically, socially and civically. They are more likely to avoid violence, contribute to their communities and achieve high grades in school.” The fifth Promise— opportunities to help others—is often taken to mean opportunities to participate in service, and while that is an important aspects of the Promise, it is not the only way to make a difference.
During my time at America’s Promise, I was exposed to the power and impact of indirect service. America’s Promise is the nation’s largest partnership working to improve youth outcomes and end the dropout crisis. With the exception of board positions for youth, giving speeches at youth conferences, and occasional volunteer opportunities, America’s Promise does not work directly with youth. Instead, the organization works with national organizations representing educators, nonprofits, businesses, policy makers, and communities to ensure that every child experiences the Five Promises. America's Promise unites these organizations, which are involved in direct service, indirect service, advocacy, and/or research with individuals and communities in an effort to end the drop out crisis.
We research our partners and communities the way matchmakers research their clients. We look at what our partners have to offer, who they work with, and how they operate. Then, we conduct interviews with Grad Nation Communities (communities that have signed to the goals outlined in the Civic Marshall Plan) to determine what resources they want and need to end the crisis in their communities, and what each community’s strengths are. The next step is uniting Grad Nation Communities and partners whose wants and needs complement each other.
As an intern, I was presented with the opportunity to volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Alexandria. During the car rides to the Boys & Girls Club, I often found myself enthralled by the words coming out of Melinda Hudson’s mouth as she offered brilliant advice and insight on various topics. On the ride back to the office after our first trip to the Boys & Girls Club, Melinda talked about the importance of the time we spent with the kids. Unlike other discussions I’ve had about the same topic, the conversation did not revolve around what we had given the kids by spending time there, though that was obviously part of the point of the experience. Instead, Melinda spoke about the importance of augmenting the work we do in the office with direct service, because the direct service allows us to have faces to go with our work and to constantly remind us why we are doing what we do in the office. So, although we are not the ones directly providing youth with the Five Promises, we still have an impact on the outcomes of youth in this nation by promoting cross-sector collaboration. Cross-sector collaborations involve the dedication of both direct and indirect service providers ,and are integral to youth being able to conquer every mountain and make it to the finish line (high school graduation) prepared for whatever lies ahead (college, vocational school, professional training, career, etc.).
To the youth—Oh! The places you’ll go—with the right resources and support. To communities—Oh! The places you’ll go and the impact you’ll have when everyone works together. To those doing indirect service—Oh! The places you’ll go and the mountains you’ll conquer by having the faces in mind when doing work.
In order to help youth reach their full potential and overcome any mountains they encounter, we all must work together. With people doing both hands-on service and indirect service, we, as a nation, are able to make a larger impact on the children in this country, and therefore have an impact on the world. I may not always feel like I am helping others when I am sitting at my desk, but when I picture the faces of the kids at the Boys and Girls Club and remind myself that America’s Promise helps foster relationships between organizations, individuals and communities, all of whom are dedicated to improving the lives of youth, I know that what America’s Promise does matters.