In 1931, two years into the Great Depression, James Truslow Adams wrote about the fundamental idea that "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." He called that idea “the American Dream.”
More than 80 years since Adams coined the phrase, that dream remains far too remote for far too many young people in America. Every year, 750,000 students don’t graduate high school on time. And 5.6 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 today are not in school or work. These young people are significantly more likely to have health problems, rely on public assistance or end up in jail.
That’s why America’s Promise is working to create an America where every young person has the chance to succeed, and every adult shares the responsibility to make it happen.
Last night, at the historic Howard Theater, we honored five adults who are doing extraordinary work to help young people in America pursue their American Dreams.
We honored a senator who has spent decades working to improve public education and a CEO who has led his company to invest $350 million in kids and education and inspired tens of thousands of his employees to become mentors. Two philanthropists reminded us that it’s the donations of time that may count most. And a combat veteran, youth advocate and author who wrote about his role model received an award from that same man: General Colin Powell.
General Powell, our founding chair, and Mrs. Alma Powell, our board chair, presented the Promise of America Awards to, as you may have guessed, Senator Lamar Alexander, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, Beatrice and Anthony Welters of the AnBryce Foundation, and Wes Moore, the founder and CEO of BridgeEdu, host of PBS’ American Graduate program, and author of “The Other Wes Moore” and “The Work: My Search for a Life that Matters.”
Last night, we congratulated these heroes and noted the progress we’ve made together. But more importantly, we reminded ourselves of James Truslow Adams’s idea of the American Dream, and recommitted to our mission of making the promise of America real for every child.
The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below:
John Gomperts is president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance, the nation’s largest network dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth and a leader of the GradNation campaign. Join the conversation using #recommit2kids.
While the recent campaign and election moved fear to the forefront in a great many households, the uncomfortable truth is that for far too many young people in America fear for personal safety is an everyday occurrence.
I don’t have teenage kids any more, but I do have a special interest in the nearly 4 million kids who are just starting high school right now. Back in 2010, the GradNation campaign set a goal of 90 percent high school graduation by 2020, and we’ve made great progress since then, reaching an all-time high graduation rate of 82.3 percent.
Every day, my colleagues and I share and read studies, news reports and op-eds written by experts in the field, and I love reading them. And yet, I often find myself learning the most from pieces written by young people themselves—the real experts not just on education, but on all the issues that concern them and have an impact on their lives.
Adults are used to being experts. Too often, they’re certain they know what young people need. Though often well-meaning, these adults don’t stop to ask young people if a new building or block scheduling or new technology or exit exams will help motivate them to achieve.
I was a bit startled when I read Bill Gates’s post on LinkedIn early this morning. I know that he has long been deeply concerned about access to and success in college, and I admire his thinking and work in this area. But he and his foundation have often tended toward technological solutions.
High school graduation rates have been the source of a lot of news coverage – and conflicting emotions – in the past few weeks.
President Obama and more than a dozen governors hailed increasing graduation rates in their annual addresses. At the same time, leading journalists and policy wonks have raised questions about those very gains and about the value of a high school diploma.
It’s December, and I’m a sucker for end-of-year lists – the best books, movies, music, plays and moments. I love the sorting and reflecting, the summing up and looking forward.
In many ways, the high points of 2015 for me were captured in the three hours I spent with Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI) in Portland, Oregon.
The GradNation campaign got two big shots of good news this week.
First, the U.S. Department of Education released preliminary data showing continued increases in high school graduation rates in most states.
Add relationship poverty to the list of challenges facing young people who leave high school before graduating.
It’s not a lack of love or family, but a lack of access and connection to people who can help lead them to a more promising future.
Over the past generation we’ve invested tremendous resources in school reform and school improvement – public and private money, great human talent in and out of classrooms, research, and heightened local and national attention.
This week, AmeriCorps members and Alums are celebrating Promise Fellows Week to draw attention to a program that deploys AmeriCorps members specifically to deliver the Five Promises that all young people need to thrive. As these extraordinary individuals reflect on their time in AmeriCorps, I wanted to take the time to reflect on my own.