The Power of Half, Phase 2
Posted by Kevin Salwen on 03.08.2011Share

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!

WOW! This has touched me in a way I haven't felt in a long time, and I am ALWAYS trying to figure out a more influential angle on why it's important to give. "… feel powerful through giving…" is brilliant! In my (admittedly small) efforts to raise money for The Hunger Project, I have been focusing on the 'feel good' aspect of giving. It seemed like the easiest sell, even though in my own giving I am well aware of the POWER it also instills. Sure, it feels good, but I can attest that it's the feeling of taking responsibility for the state of the world that means the most. Seeing what you want to change and taking action on it fundamentally changes your perspective. It's not an isolated act of being pleased with yourself; it's a stake in the ground about being partners with all of humanity. The notion of showing kids that they have resources/assets (which that idea alone can change the world), allowing them to imagine a better future, and then making giving a part of the vision is just brilliant, I can't even think of a better word. And it's not just marketing. It's true. By giving to others we feel empowered, capable, generous, mature, committed, and last but not least, important. You can't accomplish anything of great value if you feel lowly, that you're inconsequential or just a peon in life. Lots of people feels like peons, and there's no power in it. Showing those kids that they have gifts to give and that they make a difference will enable them to feel important, which will help them in every endeavor in their lives. I am LIT UP by your program and wish you and everyone associated with it all the best. For myself, I'm going to take this awesome idea of feeling powerful through giving and spread the word wherever I can. Thank you, Salwens, for all that you do.
Posted by Kyle at 1:16pm on 03.11.2011

Thanks Sandy and Kirk. Our goal is to create programming that is replicable in any school that wants it. We love the idea of spreading the message of giving far and wide.
Posted by Kevin at 8:59pm on 03.10.2011

i hope this is so successful that it is incorporated into the curriculum of all the schools in the atlanta area. what a gift to a child.....the idea that no matter what their situation, that there is something that they can give to another.
Posted by Sandy and Kirk at 06:42am on 03.09.2011