Pay It Forward

The road to Hell is paved with the souls of men with good intentions.  That’s a Norton version of a Karl Marx quote.  Altruism is not easy.  Every year I threaten to help some group or organization but my intentions always seem to fall somewhat short of my promise.  I do give away some turkeys at Thanksgiving but they don’t cost that much.  I could do more.

One of my ideas was to provide free, industry-specific,  CAD training for young people about to graduate from high school.  Not all of them will go on to college but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a career.  One or two of my offspring fall into that category.  If you see one of them on a college campus somewhere I hope you will call me before they get into trouble.

The numbers that I heard are that only 15% of Houston Independent School District ninth graders will go on to college yet 65% of future jobs will require some level of secondary or specialized education.  That sounds a lot like a train wreck about to happen.  If it’s true, I certainly wouldn’t be lacking for potential classroom candidates and the Civil industry is not exactly overrun with entry level designers and technicians.

I prepared a little presentation complete with pie charts, graphs, and some really cool graphics and trotted it down to my friends at the University of Houston – Downtown.  They were very receptive and quite impressed with my pie chart.  In fact, they were so receptive we skipped the begging and pleading and went straight to “ok”.  I was going to have to do something sooner than I expected.

So, I went home, sharpened a pencil, and opened a new spreadsheet as evidence that some serious planning was about to get underway.  (I can’t think without a pencil.) But before I could scribble my first outline I ran head-on into an economic wall.  I can afford to teach an occasional free class.  That’s not a problem.  I just can’t afford to recruit the students.  My plum of an idea was shriveling on the vine right before my eyes.  Ok, I know plums grow on trees but watching a grape shrivel just doesn’t evoke the same image.

Enter Genesys Works, a non-profit organization that recruits high school students to participate in a 14-month professional development program with graduates garnering  internships with local Fortune 500 companies.  Almost 1,000 invitations are whittled down to less than 300 via an extensive interview process conducted by Genesys Works staff and the sponsoring companies.

Those that endure this program also receive assistance with college applications, grants, and scholarships.  Some don’t make it but an amazing percentage do – a heck of a lot more than 15%.  Almost 95% go on to college and 70% of those will graduate.  These numbers are from students likely to be the first in their families to graduate high school.  This is huge.

Larger still is their transformation into young professionals.  Suddenly, they walk and talk and dress like professionals and they wear that change for the world to see.  Their friends see it.  Their families see it.  It is a joy to witness.  This is better than turkeys.


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