Yesterday was one of the most exciting days our family has had since we launched our project in Fall 2006. The big news: Programming began at the first two Power of Half schools.
For more than six months, we've been working with our friend, Dr. Ed Morris, to craft a curriculum to teach kids that they can learn by giving. Ed's view, from the day he approached us at a book signing, was this: "I know you created this for white soccer moms, but it's the poor black kid who needs The Power of Half." Those kids, he argued, need to feel powerful through giving instead of the more destructive means of joining gangs or having babies.
So, Ed and our family pulled together our best thinking. Then we asked the faculty at Bear Creek Middle School and Oakley Elementary School in South Fulton (outside Atlanta) for their input and help. They responded with incredible ideas, adding strategies and perspective -- "you know what might work better..." -- encouragement and support ("you know, this could help tame bullying too...") We asked others for their help too, including Kwame Griffith of Teach for America and my sister Val (the school psychologist at Rye Middle School).
The result is a 7-week program designed to change the trajectory for poor public-school kids. Using the tagline, Giving Changes Everything, we start with programs that will acknowledge that children are hurting -- lost fathers, abusive families, broken homes -- and then move them through a process of asset analysis (yes, I have resources), visioning (I can see a better future) and giving (I have what the world needs!) At least that's the short version.
The launch day was a blast. Minutes before, teachers stood on ladders in the gym, taping up a makeshift video screen made of paper ("it's better than these cinder block walls," one told me.) When a loud-speaker was in some kids' sight-lines, special guest Ric Ross of Capitol Records hustled to move it. Fulton County School Board Linda Bryant vice president beamed as she prodded the Bear Creek students to exercise their power to be responsible citizens and great students. Principals Darron Franklin of Bear Creek and Vonnie Thompson of Oakley smiled like proud parents of a newborn.
In short, the goal is this: To help kids grab some sense of how much power they have to control their decisions and their world, through better grades and better behavior.
We'll be tracking the progress of the project, through pre- and post-test instruments and our own observations. We'll keep you posted!