Are you ready….?
Wow, what a win! Football season has officially begun and school is now in session! Just as we are working hard to have a successful season on the football field, we need to ensure that our kids are equipped to be successful in the classroom.
According to the Department of Education, over 49 million students are heading off to nearly 99,000 public elementary and secondary schools this Fall and before the school year is out, an estimated $525 billion will be spent related to their education. In fact, this academic season, a record 19.7 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities, constituting an increase of about 4.4 million since fall 2000.
Yet in cities and neighborhoods all over the country (and overseas), we know that there are students who will not finish out this school year. There are many reasons for this, including homelessness, problems in the family or community violence. And while we should applaud the fact that high school dropout rates are lower now than in years past, dropout rates remain highest among students of color. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We all can play a part in changing these statistics for the better—and it begins with us. As I have found in my time with young people from across the country, youth today need to be instilled with a consistent positive message of caring and hope. Telling and showing a child you care can make all the difference. Engage young people in their schoolwork, show them the power of their dreams and demonstrate to them that you are committed to their wellbeing. It is the best recipe we have for creating positive change in their lives.
So today, I’m asking you to join the Asomugha Foundation and make a pledge to do your part to help our youth succeed. Wherever you are—at home, in your neighborhood, school, city or state, or through our Foundation —make the choice to play a positive role in a young person’s life. We owe it to our youth to help them recognize their limitless potential and ability to become successful adults.
Thanks for your support and let’s continue to build today for a better tomorrow!
Chairman of the Board
The Asomugha Foundation, Inc.
The $130 Million Question – What Will It Take?
Several days ago, Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, announced a large-scale multi-million dollar program designed to maximize the success of disenfranchised Black and Latino boys and young men in New York. Many of us, surprised by the definitive acknowledgment of the issues impacting our young men of color, watched with bated breath as the details of his plans were laid out. True to American skepticism, the announcement begat questions of its validity and potential impact. Would it simply scratch the surface of a deeply rooted dilemma or would the funding facilitate our ability to answer the fundamental question: What in our society has led us to where we are now —where 1 in 3 Black boys and 1 in 6 Latino boys are likely to be jailed in their lifetime?[i]
Recently, I read “Leadership On the Line” by Ronald Heifitz and Marty Linsky. In it, the authors recalled the story of the New England Aquarium and its struggle to attract people of color (visitors, youth and staff) to the organization. The authors postulated that there were two questions that needed to be addressed at the aquarium—the technical question and the adaptive question. The technical question would address their need to increase the number of people of color who visited or worked at the aquarium. The adaptive question—the one that many organizations find most challenging—focused on the role that the organization’s values played on those who visited the aquarium. The technical question was not difficult to address – they created an internship program for young people of color, resulting in a steady increase in diversity at the aquarium. The adaptive question, however, was left unanswered. With no one present, willing to answer the question: “What about our organizational culture inhibits the population we are most trying to target from joining our ranks?”, they came up short of their true objectives.
Having worked with young people most of my life, I started asking myself the adaptive questions: What will it take for our society to embrace all of our youth in a manner that not only places our youth at the core of our vision, but also at the forefront or our policy goals? What will it take for us to recognize that this non-voting population will only be as strong as the sincerity of the attention and love we show them and the desire to assist them in cultivating their gifts? Are our young Black and Latino boys destined to disenfranchisement, to travel through the cradle to prison pipeline that exists in our society? What will it take for all of us to reconsider how the work we do impacts the lives of young people for generations to come?
These questions, though challenging, must be considered in any initiative that focuses on our youth. We can no longer rely on the number of kids attending a “program,” or the number of kids involved in pro-social activities to tell us how well we are doing. Rather, we must began to ask ourselves (as adults), what is it about the policies we set, the words that we speak, or our very actions that prevent our youth from seeing our positive institutions as a way forward? How we answer that, if we choose to, will determine just how much progress we make with our young people.
Mayor Bloomberg, his administration and his partners should be applauded for their efforts. But let us not lose sight of the fundamental questions that must be answered to move us toward the future we envision for our children.
Chisara N. Asomugha, MD, MSPH, FAAP
Vice President, The Asomugha Foundation
[i] Children’s Defense Fund Website. Accessed 8.10.11
December 1, 2010 marked the 23rd commemoration of World AIDS Day, observed each year to raise awareness about the spread of the HIV infection and the AIDS pandemic. Tens of millions around the world gathered around to create awareness with protests, candlelit vigils, concerts, fundraisers, and most of all the red ribbons. The “Red Ribbon,” made famous when it was worn on the lapel English actor Jeremy Irons at the 1991 Tony Awards, has become synonymous with HIV /AIDS awareness. However, the ubiquity of the ribbons has made the awareness “politically correct” in the sense that it is a sign of sensitivity to the issue as a public interest, but does not necessarily denote an intimate understanding or attachment to the painful intricacies of the global HIV pandemic.
Now, pain comes in many textures. The various permutations for arranging its acute, dull or throbbing quality; its weeping, sobbing, or piercing mourn; or its political, social, or medical touch are endless. The danger of awareness campaigns like this is that they sometimes inadvertently bundle these complexities into a black box, wrap them in factsheets, and seal them with the brand of recognizable ribbon. While it’s important to laud large bodies such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation for making us pause before licking our pink Yoplaitâ yogurt foil tops, or pay an extra $2 for limited edition pink iPod case, how much does it help someone recognize the pathophysiology of the disease or suffering an affected family goes through?
Such is the case with HIV/AIDS pandemic, the ribbon, and associated stats. Though the numbers give us a sense of relative proportion and magnamity, the figures are blanched simplifications of what gives the epidemic its terrifying texture. According to UNAIDS, approximately 30.8 million adults and 2.5 million children are living with HIV globally and 2.6 million adults became infected in 2009. Furthermore, 5.6 million South Africans are living with HIV – with a 17.8% prevalence among those aged 15-49. Upon further scrutiny, almost one-in-three women aged 25-29, and over a quarter of men aged 30-34 are infected.
Of the 16 million children under 18 orphaned by AIDS, about 14.8 million live in sub-Saharan African. 4.5 million of these children are in South Africa and Nigeria alone which hold the top 2 positions for number of AIDS orphans in the world. The social disorder this disrupts in disturbing and will be exceptionally multigenerational in countries such as Zimbabwe where 16% of children are orphaned by AIDS or Botswana or Swaziland where the figure is 12%.
But, what does this all really mean and why is it happening? Over the next month, I will try to pay homage to the imagery behind these number by painting a Red Winter and setting a spotlight on the social troubles that have allowed one the world’s most deadly sexually transmitted and easily prevented diseases to thrive. I will particularly pay attention to the role language, sexual assault, and migrant work trends are influencing the spread of this disease. Thanks for staying tuned.
Harvard College Class of 2011
Bachelor’s Degree Candidate in Biomedical Engineering
Years ago, around the age of twenty-two, I made a critical decision. This decision would be a decision that would transform my life and allow me to leave a legacy to those that would follow. Frustrated at the state of my life then, and unsure of what to do, I came across a statement in an article.
This statement would lead to the radical journey for which I was getting ready to embark upon. The three-word statement that transformed my life was, “LEARNERS ARE EARNERS.” Those words pierced my most inner being and provided the blueprint for my personal journey toward not only success, but significance.
My decision to dedicate myself to personal development through education proved to be an essential key to my growth process. Education has been such a valuable instrument in my tool bag, as a result I have committed myself to sharing this essential key to all that will listen.
This truth was further cemented during my first trip to Ghana in West Africa. I was invited to sit with a panel of distinguished college professors and was blown away by the passion I heard in the room. The symposium dealt with early childhood preparation and development.
I sat there in complete awe as presenter after presenter hammered this idea: through education, you can create an avenue for a better life, life-style, and leave a legacy for others to follow.
After the symposium, I instantly remembered the sights of dilapidated buildings and inadequate living structures I had seen from the airport to my hotel room. I couldn’t help but think that what I saw should not equate to such passion, to such high hopes for these young students.
My mind would not let me rest, why would they put such high expectations on these children? Then I pulled one of the professors to the side, and said, “I am perplexed as to why the expectations for these students are set so high.” The professor looked at me, with a serious face, such as I had never seen. His reply has stayed with me for all these years. He said, “Sir, we have great hope that our Nation will be transformed because of education. We don’t know which one of our students will have the opportunity to leave our country and study abroad, but we do know that each student will be prepared.”
Education has played an enormous role in my development; both formal and self education has been my foundation, thus laying the road map for my future.
I whole heartily believe this key will prove valuable in your life as well. Become a life learner today.
Dr. Will Moreland
CEO, Will Moreland International, LLC
If any industry needs a stimulus package, it is education. Education and literacy underpin the acquisition of wealth around the world as well as the management of individual and public health. Failing to invest in formal education is quite possibly one of the most self-sabotaging and unsustainable oversights a society can make. As history has shown us, underdevelopment of human capital, compromising of national leadership pipeline, and brain drains take generations to repair.
September marked the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Millennium Declaration by the 192 countries that comprise the US General Assembly. The Declaration aims to improve social and economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries by 2015 by way of eight distinct, but intersecting goals. Millennium Development Goal 2 (MDG 2): Universal Education is committed to universal enrollment at the primary school level and universal literacy of 15-24 year olds.
Unfortunately, the General Assembly reported that despite remarkable gains by some of the world’s poorest nations, the education goals will not be attained by 2015 given the slow average rate of progress and “inequality” which has proven to be the most formidable obstacle.
With few exceptions, developed nations lead developing nations in rates of education and literacy but just what does “under-education” look like around the world? How do barriers to basic formal education and its windfall manifest differently across various cultural contexts and how are these issues being addressed in a culturally competent manner?
It may make sense to distill this further—when are our children failing school and when are the schools failing our children? It seems that more often than not we, specifically the political state and our elected leadership, are failing our children. The alarming proliferation of non-governmental organizations internationally in the last two decades indicates a growing and fundamental distrust in the adequacy of central government to provide basic needs and support basic freedoms.
The most recent figures show that 30% of children in sub-Saharan Africa drop out before competing primary school. The majority of these dropouts are girls for whom the imperative of education has been devalued and children who withdraw for financial reasons. This isn’t surprising considering that the average family is expected to contribute up to one-quarter of their household income towards school fees. Even without this troubling dropout rate, the UN estimated that sub-Saharan Africa would need to double the current number of teachers to attain universal enrollment by 2015..
Governments that have taken substantial steps toward the fulfillment of MDG 2 should be lauded for their successes and for applying solutions that are sensitive to their people’s unique needs. For example, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Nepal and Tanzania have abolished school fees in an attempt to reach MDG 2. Both Tanzania and Ethiopia have seen enrollment increase by 100% and 95% respectively since 2000 on account of these measures. Moreover Ghana is recruiting volunteers and retirees to meet teacher demand while Tanzania has an impressive goal of hiring 18,000 additional teachers. Tackling Central Asia’s major issues of geographic accessibility, wise investment on the part of Nepal’s government now ensures that 90% of students live within 30 minutes of their local school and Mongolia’s government has created 100 mobile “tent” schools to serve children in remote villages. Egypt now incentivizes female enrollment by offering girls free tuition and constructing “girl-friendly schools” while in Ethiopia, Berhane Hewan, a program supported by the UN Population Fund is working to eradicate child marriage and awards a sheep to the families of girls who finish primary school.
In developed countries, high dropout rates are also correlated with resource poor settings, but seem to be more tied to social factors and harder for governments to address. The federal government continues to make teaching profession more appealing to college graduates by eliminating the Federal Student Loan debt and cities with high drop out rates, such as San Francisco have criminalized truancy—dropping out’s “gateway drug– and will arrest parents if the children skip school excessively. Non-governmental organization have impacted national education tremendously with teacher training corps such as City Year and Teach For America which transplant hundreds of graduates of elite universities into schools to teach at-risk students in resource poor school districts.
As we examine the limitations to the attainment of formal education, we must also pay attention to the promises of various and diverse genres of informal education that this internet and technology age bolsters tremendously. With regard to informal avenues of education, literacy is possibly the most paramount of democratizing agents and drivers of economic and social self-determination that modern history has ever witnessed.
Harvard College Class of 2011
Bachelor’s Degree Candidate in Biomedical Engineering
Greetings and welcome to The Asomugha Foundation’s new interactive website!
If you have already started touring the website, you may notice some significant changes! From our new look, to our newsreel, to our links to Facebook and Twitter, we want to make sure our supporters have many ways to connect with the Foundation and our mission. Supporters like you are what make the Asomugha Foundation so successful!
As you can see we have launched the Asomugha Foundation (AF) Blog. The AF Blog will focus on issues addressing education, development and the progress of disadvantaged communities. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer blogger for the Asomugha Foundation or would like to post an article that you have authored on our website please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Visit our website often and checkout our blog regularly as we update it with stories, opinions and articles on issues we care deeply about.
Thank you to all our supporters for your generosity. You have truly made a difference! We invite all who are interested in the Asomugha Foundation’s work and mission to explore the many ways that you can get involved and help build today for a brighter tomorrow.
Until next time,