One child drops out of
school every 26 seconds...
According to recent national studies, the high school drop-out rate amongst all young people in the U.S. is 30%. That means almost a third of our children, made up of all races and economic classes, are dropping out of high school. But most devastating of all, 50% of all African-Americans and 50% of all Latinos are dropping out of high school, and in urban, inner-city and under-served communities across America, the high school drop-out rate is as high as 75%. This is extremely troubling for the nation, and an economic death sentence for America's under-served. My friend Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO of America's Promise and a leader in the drop-out prevention movement across America, said recently, "If we are not careful, the next group of underperforming assets will be our children." Something must be done.
At Operation HOPE, we believe that children are dropping out of high school because they don't believe that education is relevant to their future. We also believe that the best way to make education "relevant" to their future, is to show children how to do well, and even get rich, legally; and that means financial literacy, the language of money, free enterprise and capitalism, and ownership; and this begins with owning oneself (dignity, which is the real wealth).
For young people with an unfortunate public record, no matter how smart they are, many may find it difficult in the short term to pass a standard background check at a major corporation. In such instances, the viable option for them may be "entrepreneurship." We need to spark and inspire a generation of young, urban, rural and low-wealth entrepreneurship across America.
According to another mentor of mine - 5MK national co-chair and entertainment icon Quincy Jones - "It takes 20 years to change a culture." Well, over the past 20 years, we have made dumb sexy. Over the next 20 years, we must make smart sexy again.
With the possible exception of the founding of Operation HOPE itself, some 16 years ago in South Central Los Angeles immediately following the Rodney King Riots, nothing has inspired me more, or feels more vitally important and relevant today, than the "big idea" called 5 MILLION KIDS, or 5MK, in HOPE short-hand.
5MK is nothing short of a bold, national strategy to "help break the back of the high school drop-out epidemic in America," and to inspire our youth, particularly our urban youth, to re-imagine their possibilities, to take their lives back, to empower themselves with real and sustainable options in their life, and to realize their God-given potential. My personal hero and HOPE global spokesman, civil rights icon Ambassador Andrew Young, once told me that there could never be a (silver rights) movement without young people. Well, 5 MILLION KIDS is that movement.
The FIVE MILLION KIDS Initiative is a focused and coordinated national effort to invest in America's most precious national human capital - our youth and our families - to powerfully re-brand education and to "Make Smart Sexy" again.
5MK is co-chaired nationally by icons Quincy Jones and Ambassador Andrew Young, our first 5MK HOPE Corps Volunteer is U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral, and our first 5MK Community Co-Chairs are Reverend Dr. Cecil "Chip" Murray, the peace maker and legendary community builder who held Los Angeles together following the Rodney King Riots, and none other than Vice Admiral David Brewer, superintendent and chief of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in America.
5MK will be formally launched, on-the-ground, in Los Angeles and in cities across America early in 2009, but you can take a peek at 5MK highlights, and track our progress, starting today. Track our progress, share your vision, get involved, organize a 5MK solution in your community, neighborhood or street, or make a 5MK Pledge of your own design at www.5MK.org.
One person can make a difference. Be...that one person.
Onward with HOPE,
John Hope Bryant
Founder, Chairman and CEO