There are some nights when my angst is running high from the day’s news that it’s tough to switch gears to write a ‘good people’ post. Tonight was one such night, until I read this first story …
What a graduation present!
Wiley College is a four-year, privately-supported, historically black college/university (HBCU) located on the west side of Marshall, Texas. Wiley College holds distinction as one of the oldest historically black colleges west of the Mississippi River. On May 7th, more than 100 students earned their degrees, ready to head out into the world, but much to their surprise, they found themselves graduating with NO student debt! That’s right … no student loans to pay off because an anonymous donor paid in full the loans of the entire graduating class! The estimated cost of this generous gift is in the neighborhood of $330,000!
The school’s motto is: Go Forth Inspired. Well, there are some young people leaving Wiley this month who have good reason to be inspired! My best guess is that at least some of them will ‘pay it forward’ at some point if they are able to do so. Thumbs up to the anonymous donor!!!
And along similar lines, students at five Chicago Public Schools this week got the news that all their college tuition will be paid for—along with room and board, books, fees and taxes! And not only are these freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors getting the free ride, but also one of their parents or guardians. No anonymous donor here, but still a lot of good people looking toward the future for these young people.
The multi-generation scholarship program is being launched by HOPE Chicago, a nonprofit led by former Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson. HOPE Chicago has committed to raising $1 billion in support and funding over the next decade—and has raised $40 million already with funding partners that include several corporations, financial institutions, and private family foundations.
Students at the five inaugural schools gathered in gymnasiums across the city to hear the stunning news. 90 percent of kids attending citywide public schools are students of color and 80 percent are low-income, so this means many of them would not have been able to even think about attending college were it not for this program.
With its $1 billion goal, HOPE Chicago vows to provide scholarships for 24,000 students and more than 6,000 parents/guardians through its two-generation model, which is expected to increase the likelihood of students actually completing and graduating. A survey showed that only 27% of Chicago Public School students earn their degree, after 63% enroll.
What a great cause, a great organization! Again, as I said above, it is to be hoped that some of these students will become contributors to the cause when they are able. I wish there were organizations like HOPE Chicago in every major city in the nation … why aren’t there, I wonder?
And down at the elementary level …
Let’s turn our attention to John F. Kennedy Montessori Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky where teacher Stefany Bibb is leading a Kindness Crew.
During spring break, Ms. Bibb created a rock garden outside of the school’s building where students could place painted rocks with messages of kindness or happy designs. Students can keep the rocks for up to one week before returning them to the garden. If students choose to keep the rock longer, they can paint another one and replace the one they took. But the movement goes way beyond painted rocks … take a look …
And Stefany Bibb refuses any credit for these young peoples’ acts of kindness, saying …
“Nothing you’ve heard from any of the students, nothing they do, is because of me. I just gave them the outlet to do what they naturally do. They’re naturally kind. There’s nothing I can take credit for for how amazing they are and the kindness they spread. I’m just like, ‘Here, do what you do’.”
Wow, huh? Wouldn’t you love to be able to project 20 years or so into the future and see how these kids turn out?
Speaking of kind young people …
Meet Amber Wilken, age 17, of Fort Mill, South Carolina. Amber has always been a caring person since learning that her mother was homeless while growing up. As a member of several service-focused organizations including Girl Scouts, JROTC, BETA Club, and her church youth group, Amber began tutoring and providing afterschool homework help through a local foundation to local youths. During these tutoring sessions, Amber found out that many of the youth she was working were experiencing food insecurity and she decided to do something.
One of her largest efforts to-date has been a series of food drives throughout the year. With the support of her school’s JROTC program, Amber has hosted both in-person and drive-by collection efforts along with contactless pickups and restocked a frequently accessed food pantry over a dozen times! Through an initiative with her Girl Scout Troop, Amber was able to supply 75 children breakfast and lunch for an entire summer! Through partnerships with Panera and Publix, she has also led food recovery efforts to further support area pantries. Her next goal is to create a community garden to support youth and teach youth sustainable gardening processes.
When she’s not fighting hunger, Amber supports her local Veterans Affairs group, serves as an Adventure Guide during Carowinds Amusement Park Wish Day, oversees the volunteer work of her fellow JROTC Cadets as their Community Service Director, and hosted a trunk-or-treat event to give youth the chance to celebrate Halloween during the pandemic with the support of a Hershey Youth Save Halloween grant.
Whew! This young woman puts me to shame! More thumbs up for Amber Wilken!!!