Bringing education where it's needed most | Brett McNaught and Virginia Emmons-McNaught
Brett & Virginia’s careers in service began on the edge of the Sahara Desert where they met each other while serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in Niger, West Africa. They spent over two years living in mud huts without running water or electricity where they learned to speak the local languages of their communities, built their villages’ first schools and health clinics, and implemented adult literacy programs, health education projects, and agriculture projects. Virginia is the President, co-founder and founding CEO, of Educate Tomorrow and Brett is the current CEO. Educate Tomorrow provides a continuum of care for transitioning foster and homeless youth into adulthood focusing on higher education, employability and permanent connections to a strong community. In 2010, the White House recognized Educate Tomorrow as a top 25 "Program of Promise." Virginia was recently awarded the 2015 Red Cross Spectrum Award for Women in the category of Education and was a finalist for the White House Fellowship in 2012. Before becoming CEO of Educate Tomorrow in 2012, Brett was the Construction Manager for Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans. In 2005, he joined buildOn where he led their International Programs overseeing the construction of 1,045 rural school classrooms for more than 40,000 youth daily in Africa, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean.
Miami Dade College's Educate Tomorrow as Single Stop program to launch the Changemaker Corps
The Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, along with the National Conference on Citizenship and the Corporation for National and Community Service, announced on April 15th that Miami Dade College was selected as the winner of the Service Year + Higher Education Innovation Challenge. MDC joins Drake University and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as one of only three winners of this prestigious national competition.
MDC was selected for two awards: one in the community college category, and the audience choice award for the best project among all finalists. MDC's award-winning Service Year Changemaker Corps project is a peer-to-peer mentoring and support program that helps MDC students at the Educate Tomorrow at Single Stop program who have were formerly in foster care to mentor other former foster-care-system students, with the goal of helping them stay in school, graduate and develop employability skills. MDC received $40,000 from the Lumina Foundation to support the planning and creation of our Changemaker Corps project. This is in partnership with the Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy (iCED) at Miami Dade College.
6 Changemaker Corps members will enroll in a 3 credit Leadership course and will receive 20 hours of job related training, a monthly stipend and transportation assistance while serving as a peer-to-peer menter 20 hours per week on their campus and in the community.
2015 Path Awards - Brett McNaught & Virginia Emmons McNaught
Finding Your Power, Purpose and Presence
Finding your Power, Purpose and Presence, is a leadership development course that guides young college or college bound women ages 18-24 on a journey towards self-awareness. Compressed as a summer executive internship model, the life skills course will guide students through a two-week intensive study of self-reflection and workforce etiquette; followed by a five week paired, executive shadowing experience. The two-week intensive study will take place at the Doubletree Grand hotel at 1717 N. Bayshore Drive from June 14th-25th. Guest presenters will be: 1. Paulette White, Life Consultant and former Director of Operations for the Fountainbleu Hotel 2. Rabbi Jenny Skylark, JD., Author, Crisis Counselor and Healer 3. Anita MacBeth, Public School Administrator, Dancer,Certified Yoga Instructor, Aromatherapist and accomplished Jewelry Artisan 4. Valerie Crawford, Organizational and Business Coach 5. Rory Lee, Chemical Engineer and Make-up Artist to the Stars 6. Virginia Emmons-McNaught, Founder Educate Tomorrow.
After June 25th these 12 young women will be placed in an executive setting, 20 hours per week over five weeks to shadow and be mentored by an executive. Executive mentors will interview their mentees and agree on a summer work plan. Each student is expected to complete a portfolio project by the end of the summer session. Internship participants are college students 18-24 years, who are a part of Educate Tomorrow’s mentoring and developmental programs. These young women will be matched with executive woman from our local community, who have a commitment to coaching a young student through one-on-one interaction over a five week summer internship. The job shadowing experience runs July 1st – August 1st. All students will receive 3 college credits with Miami Dade College and a $1,400 stipend for their work.
Please learn more by contacting Alison Austin at 305-374-3751 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the website www.educatetomorrow.org. Below is a list of our 2014 Summer Internship Executive Coaches who have volunteered their time to share their experiences with our young women. Cecelia Guterriez-Abety Executive Director, Miami Children’s Initiative; Leigh Toney Executive Director, MDC Entrepreneurial Center; Thamara Labrouse Executive Director, Miami Workers Center; Thumiah Tutt Development Director, Miami Science Museum; Vernita Nelson, Asst City Manager, City of Miami Gardens; Carolyn N Godert, Director Community Outreach, Catalyst Miami; Lauren Cotina, Creative Director, Jefferys Group; Saliha Nelson, Vice President, Urgent Inc.; Tracey Robertson-Carter Executive Director, Cares Mentoring; Graylene Swilley Exec. Dir., Black Hospitality Initiative, Greater Miami CVB; Dr. Deborah Gracia, Chief Medical Officer, Bouriquien Community Health Clinic; Juanita Kirkland, Owner and President, Sheyes Day Care Centers of Miami.
So Many Things to Talk About
So much has been happening at Educate Tomorrow over the past few months it is so difficult to share all of the exciting things at once. We are thrilled to have been mentioned in John Emerson's article this August in The Chronicle of Social Change. https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/news/2013/08/07/unleashing-college-success-for-youth-from-foster-care-nationwide-advances/?print=1
"Another exemplary Florida initiative is Educate Tomorrow’s work in Dade County. They are bringing community partners together to address academic achievement issues for those in foster care – including postsecondary education and training. Their work promoting community dialog and planning includes upcoming work with community colleges. This is an area of national need." -John Emerson, who leads Casey Family Program’s postsecondary education and training for youth from foster care
Educate Tomorrow has partnered with Miami-Dade College to start the Educate Tomorrow program at MDC. What this means specifically is that for the first time Miami Dade College will have a dedicated staff member, an employee of the college, that will work exclusively to support the 325+ students who were formerly in the child welfare system or homeless.
On another unrelated but equally exciting note. Virginia and I just returned from an 8 day RV and camping trip to Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico where we took 5 Educate Tomorrow students, our two babies and my parents. We drove 1,700 miles and visited Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion, The Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, the Navajo Nation and several Colorado State Parks. It was amazing. Here are some pictures. https://picasaweb.google.com/117109529889731677051/EliteExplorersSlideshow?feat=email
Lastly, we were also mentioned in the Miami Herald today regarding a partnership we have with the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and the Miami Coalition for the Homeless to accurately count and support Miami's unaccompanied homeless youth ages 13-24. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/29/3594811/miami-dade-volunteers-survey-kids.html?story_link=email_msg
Cross-Country Explorer Expedition for Former Foster Youth
Educate Tomorrow, a local nonprofit organization in Miami has selected five students to participate in its first annual Elite Explorer Expedition August 15- August 22, 2013. Selected students will be led by CEO. Brett McNaught and Founder, Virginia Emmons McNaught on a journey through the southwestern United States and be given the opportunity to explore mountains, caves and waterways along with the cultural, political and spiritual landscapes of these magnificent regions.
"This is our organizations's most intense life skills course! Many of the students that have been selected have never left the State of Florida or Traveled on an airplane before. This is an incredible, life-changing opportunity for them and us," said Brett McNaught, CEO of Educate Tomorrow.
The geographical expedition will require students to sleep in tents and involve hiking, volunteer service, patience and a dedication to learning. They will experience our Nation's national treasures, including: The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches National Park and The Rocky Mountains and much more!
The five students selected are all former foster youth who have aged out of the dependency system and are currently enrolled in college. They are between 18-24 years old have been a part of Educate Tomorrow for a minimum of three months, and have a consistent track record toward educational improvement. Educate Tomorrow's summer internship program offered 9 Educate Tomorrow participants the opportunity to work in a paid internship 10-15 hours per week for 7 weeks this summer. The internship focused on building Educate Tomorrow's capacity to serve more students while providing interns with real job experience. The third goal was to build a stronger bond between Educate Tomorrow participants , staff and volunteer mentors.
Educate Tomorrow is meeting a crucial need in Miami and has been recognized nationally for its design of an innovative model program. In 2010, The White House recognized Educate Tomorrow as a top 25 "Program of Promise" during National Mentoring month. On March 8th, the prestigious College Board, Advocacy & Policy Center named Educate Tomorrow the 2013 Innovation Award winner for the Southern Region of the United States for the category of preparing students for "Getting In" to college.
The Miami Mentoring Collaboartive
Four of Miami's leading mentoring agencies have partnerd in a one-of-kind collaborative to support all efforts towards building a mentor-rich community across Miami-Dade County. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami, Educate Tomorrow, Hope for Miami and Communities In Schools are joining forces to form the "Miami Mentoring Collaborative (MMC)" with a mission to increase the number of youth that get mentoring in the county as well as improve the quality of their matches.
Beginning soon with a much needed recruitment campaign to enroll volunteers in areas of Miami where mentoring is greatly in demand, the MMC hopes to bring more mentors to a huge waiting list of at-risk youth. Through this campaign the MMC will offer a series of events uniting the volunteers from all agencies giving them the opportunity to greet and mingle and learn from experts in the field about the topics related to mentoring.
The MMC through the Mentoring Resrouce Center at Big Brothers Big Sisters will also bridge gaps in service by helping each other enroll the youth and the volunteers into the program that is the right fit for each by referring them to the right program within one of the collabirative agencies. The Mentoring Resource Center will also provide capacity building opportunities for each agency such as staff development trainings.
To find out more about the Miami Mentoring Collaborative please contact Marianne Weiss at 305 644 0066 ext 228 or Brett McNaught at 305 374 3751.
Educate Tomorrow Receives College Board's CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Award
MIAMI – Local non-profit, Educate Tomorrow (www.educatetomorrow.org) is a regional winner of the CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Award. The award was presented on Friday, March 8, 2013 by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center.
“It is an honor to be presented with the Innovation Award by College Board,” CEO Brett McNaught said. “We are thrilled to be recognized for developing an innovative program to support transitioning foster youth in the attainment of higher education. We know that when young people have a supportive community around them they raise their expectations and succeed.”
The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center chose two regional winners to be recipients of the 2013 CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Awards. Each winner received a $5,000 award to help expand or sustain their program. Educate Tomorrow was the regional winner of the ‘Getting In’ award. Contestants were judged on relevance, innovation, impact and potential.
The CollegeKeys Compact was founded in 2007 after a report issued by the College Board found that too many qualified low- to moderate-income high school graduates do not enroll in a four-year college program. The report attributed this to poor preparation, low expectations and financial barriers. The ‘Getting In’ Award targets programs that focus on searching and recruiting low-income, high achieving students to be accepted into postsecondary institutions.
Educate Tomorrow is a Miami-based non-profit organization that provides one-on-one mentorship programs for local foster youth who are aging out of the foster care system and other students in need. These mentors help youth to further their education and put them on the road to independence. The mentors and Educate Tomorrow staff integrate activities to support the physical, emotional, social and academic needs of participating youth. These activities include one-on-one mentoring, life skills, educational success events, tutoring and career support.
Nationally, less than three percent of foster youth ever obtain a college degree. 44% of Educate Tomorrow’s students over 23 years old have a college degree or certification. Foster youth in Florida have a great opportunity with the Road to Independence Scholarship, which pays for tuition and fees at any Florida university or college. The scholarship also enables them to receive nearly $1,000 per month until they are 23 years old to pay for living expenses. Educate Tomorrow helps and encourages foster youth to take advantage of the opportunities before them.
Educate Tomorrow, Corp. (www.educatetomorrow.org) is an international, nonprofit, certified 501(c) 3 organization. Educate Tomorrow’s mission is to create independence for foster youth and other disadvantaged youth through education, mentoring, and life skills training. Educate Tomorrow addresses the issue of educational attainment by integrating activities designed to support the physical, emotional, social, and academic needs of current and former foster youth in Miami-Dade County. This integration creates a program that is ultimately more effective than a more traditional mentoring program. Educate Tomorrow is guided by the principles of collaboration, accountability, and civic engagement.
Contact: Kristine B. Snively of Pristine PR at (954) 376-3683, or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Who We Serve
Educate Tomorrow is making a push to try to create awareness and support for students that may be eligible for the college tuition waiver under the "custody of a relative" status as well as "apopted from DCF" or "Homeless". As you know traditionally the population we have served has been transitioning foster youth, though we have always made exceptions. With your help we want to expand the parameters.
In 2011 the tuition waiver for those in the custody of a relative was only used 153 times statewide vs. 1,434 foster youth who aged out and 424 for those adopted from DCF. Those numbers should not be that far apart and the word needs to get out about this huge educational opportunity.
Custody of a relative (s. 1009.25(1)(d), F.S.)
1009.25 Fee exemptions.—
(c) A student who is or was at the time he or she reached 18 years of age in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services or who, after spending at least 6 months in the custody of the department after reaching 16 years of age, was placed in a guardianship by the court. Such exemption includes fees associated with enrollment in career-preparatory instruction. The exemption remains valid until the student reaches 28 years of age.
(d) A student who is or was at the time he or she reached 18 years of age in the custody of a relative under s. 39.5085 or who was adopted from the Department of Children and Family Services after May 5, 1997. Such exemption includes fees associated with enrollment in career-preparatory instruction. The exemption remains valid until the student reaches 28 years of age.
In 2009, 1,475 young adults aged out of foster care in Florida. Based on recent statistics, less than 50% will earn a high school diploma before they turn 22, more than half will experience homelessness and only 30% will be gainfully employed. Currently more than 90% of our 132 active participants are enrolled in school or gainfully employed. Nationally less than 3% of former foster youth ever obtain a college degree. There are currently 88 Educate Tomorrow participants who are now over 23 years old. Of those, 44% have a college degree or certification and 94% have their high school diploma or GED.
Making A Difference
41 of our students have now graduated from college. Graduates came from a variety of fields from certifications in phlebotomy and automotive tech to Master's degrees in Accounting, Social Work and Journalism. We are proud of all our Alumni!
The average age at time of graduation was 23.5 years old. This stresses the importance of Educate Tomorrow's policy that students never age out of our program, they can only graduate out and become Alumni.
Of our 88 students over 23 yrs old, 44% have a college degree or certification. That is compared with less than 5% of former foster youth in Florida and nationally.
93% of our students over 23 yrs old have a High School diploma or GED, compared with less than 60% of former foster youth in Florida.
The 41 college graduates have received degrees or certifications from 15 different colleges and universities. That means we need to cast a wider net and find supporters and mentors outside of Miami.
Now Offering Direct Education Services
For many years Educate Tomorrow has focused on educational mentoring and coupled that with life-skills trainings and college tours. With a project led by Leadership Miami in 2012 we were able to redesign our office to support our youth in a more direct way. We hired an education specialist, Sara Camacho in July and she has been busy putting together a ton of resources to fit the personalized needs of every person in our program. So far it has been a hit with the students who are in the know. We have had students using the Mentee resource center for successful job searches, housing applications, finacial aid, and resume writing. It has been a favorite spot for some to get their home work done or to meet wiht their mentor. We have top of the line and free ACT/SAT/GED prep software and a computer lab with internet. It is just a fun place to come by and hang out. We have partnered with the Doubletree Grand hotel to offer food at cost so we are able to offer every student that drops in a free hot and nutritous meal. I have seen it really change the way we work. I encourage more of our students, mentors and supporters to spread the word and utilize this great resource.
Mentee Resource Center
Where: 1717 N. Bayshore Drive Suite 203, Miami, FL 33139 (located on the second floor of the Doubletree Grand hotel next to the Omni station)
When: Monday 10am-5pm, Tuesday 10am-7pm, W-F 10am-5pm. Additional hours available by appointment.
Phone: 305 374 3751, ask for Sara
The Mentee Resource Center is available to anyone currently in school or wishing to go back to school from 14-24 years old (if you are over 24 you are still welcome). In June 2012 the Educate Tomorrow office was completely redesigned to offer a drop-in center for Miami students.
What we have:
We have 7 work stations with computers and internet access. We have access to unlimited free licenses to some of the best test prep and study tools available. We have an educator on site at all times to provide one-on-one support and guidance, to create study plans and educational goal plans. We assist with college applications, advice on vocational programs, financial aid, scholarships, online tutoring. As well as academic support we also help with resume writing, interview skills and job searches. If you want a mentor to assist with your educational goals we have that available too.
Want specifics? Here is what we have to offer.
Test Prep/Study Options
Skills mastery and practice
Online mastery-based resource for assessing and remediating college- and career-readiness skills in reading, writing and mathematics.
Pre-built or customized assessments
Personalized learning plans
Highly interactive learning activities that enable students to master skills at their own pace
GED Prep (Merit Software)
(Can be a basic skills program as well, though geared for the GED)
Must be done at a computer at the Educate Tomorrow office
Interactive learning activities
Self-paced, and self-correcting lessons
Student scores are tracked in a record management system that allows instructors and students to view results and print reports.
The GED Prep Bundle consists of 8 separate software programs that have been effective in preparing students for the GED exam.
Language Arts: Reading and Critical Thinking Skills
Language Arts: Writing Skills
Mathematics: Computation and Problem-Solving Skills
Prep on your own time
Just for SATs
Diagnostic test that creates a customized study plan for each student
Videos on all SAT topics
Step-by-step problem solving exercises
Lessons based on diagnostic and practice test results
Online Student and Parent Reports with Smart Reports™—progress, performance, and homework tracking
Smart Reports™. The student portal keeps you informed of your progress on each assignment as well as your performance on every tested topic. You can also view your practice test performance and analyze your strengths and weaknesses by topic area, question type, and more.
Smart Reports™ helps you stay focused on reaching your goals.
4 proctored tests per subscription
More for SAT and ACT prep
Also helps with basic knowledge
The Knowledge Toolbox is going to be useful for reference as well
Has visual, audio, and written explanations and activities for students to utilize and work from
Job Skills/Computer Literacy
Computer literacy program from everything from Microsoft word basics, to Microsoft Excel spreadsheet formulas (see catalogue list links below).
Programs have open access all the way up to the end of our product registration end date, which is April 15, 2013. This means you can learn from any course offered up until that date.
There are course basics which are also supplemented by more detailed books, like those you would buy in the stores (ex: Microsoft for Dummies) to further educate and support the learner.
10th Anniversary Gala on January 19th!
Miami’s Chapter of Florida Association for Women Lawyers (FAWL) and its non-profit partner, Educate Tomorrow will host the 10th Anniversary ‘Havana Nights’ Gala on Saturday, January 19, 2013 from 7:00 PM to 12:00 AM at a private bay front estate located at 17575 Old Cutler Road Palmetto Bay, FL 33157. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS
“We are thrilled to be co-hosting this year’s event with the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. All of the proceeds raised will go towards our Miami non-profit programs that provide mentors and educational tools to youth who are aging out of the foster care system,” said Brett McNaught, CEO of Educate Tomorrow.
The Gala will have a Cuban ‘Havana Nights’ theme this year. There will be various headlining restaurants catering Cuban food and a local Cuban band will be performing called, ‘Spam Allstars.” Bacardi will be this year’s drink sponsor, serving a variety of unique beverages to attendees. The Gala will also feature a silent auction where guests can bid on items such as lavish cruises, exclusive sports tickets and rare wines that are difficult to find anywhere else in the world!
Educate Tomorrow will celebrate its 10th year of service in 2013. The non-profit organization is dedicated to providing one-on-one education mentors for foster care youth between the ages of 14 and 23 who are transitioning out of the foster care system.
Major event sponsors include: Stearns Weaver, Chris Damian, Gibraltar Bank, Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin, PA, Berger Singerman, Kaufman, Rossin & Co., Damian & Valori LLP, Wells Fargo, Sanchez-Medina, Gonzalez, Quesada, Lage, Crespo, Gomez & Machado LLP, Robert and Edith Hudson, Tony and Carolina Romeo, Friedman and Frost, P.L., Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, PA, Katz Barron, Cisneros Corporation/ Venevision International, The Jack Parker Corporation, Global Risk Solutions, Meland Russin Budwick, Alderman Law Firm, Harke Clasby & Bushman LLP, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, LLP, Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, PA, Robert Levenson, Aaxon Laundry Systems, Veritext and Janet Sitchin.
The event will take place on Saturday, January 19, 2013 from 7:00 PM to 12:00 AM at a private bay front estate located at 17575 Old Cutler Road Palmetto Bay, FL 33157. Sponsorship opportunities, along with in-kind food and wine donor tables, are still available. For more information, please call 305-374-3751.
Give $5, Get $5
In September of 2012 Therafit Shoe launched a line of womens shoes and a determination for giving back to those who need it most every single time someone buys a pair of shoes. Educate Tomorrow was honored to be a part of Therafits selection of 4 charities that are a part of their One Step Forward campaign. Educate Tomorrow was also proud to be the winner of Therafits socail media contest to design your own shoe. Co-founder of Educate Tomorrow and my wife, Virginia Emmons, designed and won the Therafit shoe contest with more than 700 votes. She loves her Therafit shoes and now uses them every time she goes out to take our kids for a walk in the park or to exercise. December is the month of giving, both gifts to others and charity. I am excited to announce that in the month of December Therafit has stepped up to increase their giving to both you and Educate Tomorrow. Through the Give $5, Get $5 campaign every time you use the Educate Tomorrow coupon you save $5 on a pair a Therafit Shoes and they give a $5 donation to Educate Tomorrow. I am excited about the possibilities of this partnerhsip and I hope you join us in supporting Therafit, a company who is determined to giving back every step of the way.
A Community Partner
In the summer of 2012 we were blessed to partner with a great Miami-based organization called PREPWORKS. PREPWORKS was founded and is led by Tracey LaFlamme Ortega. According to PREPWORKS: “In 2005, Tracy embraced the roles of both instructor and entrepreneur and created a goal-oriented, systematic approach to standardized test preparation and academic achievement. Students told their classmates and parents told their friends, resulting in word-of mouth success stories that turned out an exceptional number of students. Soon PREPWORKS was created to empower students to realize and achieve their personal academic bests. In the past five years, PREPWORKS has helped thousands of students achieve their goals.”
We have been working with PREPWORKS for the past few months and we are getting great reviews from the Educate Tomorrow students who are using it. The program is engaging and interactive and really works at attaining knowledge not just for increasing test scores but for learning reinforcing core math, reading and writing competencies.
And the best thing for Educate Tomorrow is that PREPWORKS is generous. PREPWORKS understands that the youth we work with do not have access to abundant resources without a giving community around them. Therefore PREPWORKS decided that all Educate Tomorrow youth should have that access, free of charge, in order to help make our entire community stronger and better prepared for the future, fitting with their goal of “striving to remove the barriers to educational opportunity and excellence in America.”
Educate Tomorrow is proud to partner with PREPWORKS and we believe that if this desire to make the entire community succeed can grow we will build a strong community with social equity and economic prosperity.
The Power of Choice
I know that the freedom to choose is right. It is the core of democracy, of what it is to be American, of what it should be to be human. But I am impressed when I see it work in small but powerful doses. At Educate Tomorrow the students we work with choose to be a part of us. They choose to take advantage of the resources we can provide them with and they choose to keep walking through our doors. And when they make those choices, each time they make those choices, they are one giant leap closer to reaching their goals, to becoming empowered and to reaching their goals. Many teenagers don't get to choose what they want to do. They have to go to school. They have to clean their room. They have to come hoe at a reasonable hour. When you are in the foster care system your choices are even further restricted. With that so are your opportunities. And here is Educate Tomorrow a small, non-profit organisation that is focused on education, learning, skills building. To a teen I can imagine, how boring does that sound? I know that is what I would have thought when I was 16. And to top it off, no one is making anyone be a part of Educate Tomorrow. There are no bribes, save for a free lunch. So here we are, Educate Tomorrow has all these great things to offer a young person: a mentor, a life coach, tutoring, a safe place to come and chill, ACT/SAT prep, a computer lab, life skills camps, college tours, and much much more. If you embrace Educate Tomorrow and all that we have to offer, it will change your life, no doubt. And it has changed lives. 3 strong young women now have their masters degrees, 9 have bachelors and many associates and vocational certificates. And the reason for that is because it was a choice, and that choice to go get a mentor, to go to a life-skills camp, to go. Yesterday I was sitting at my desk staring at our empty workstations in our new mentee resource center, because school was in session, and I was wondering, wrongly, how can we get students to use this. Then what impressed me was right after school our door started opening and by 3:30 pm there were 4 of our students workng on the computers. One was doing PREPWORKS, one was searching for an apartment, one was doing their homework and the other looking for a job and compiling a list of resources for other transitioning foster youth. I can't think of anything more inspiring than when people make the choice to put in the hard work to create opportunities for themselves.
Educate Tomorrow Niger
I am not the one to be writing this blog about my recent trip to Niger so I will keep it short and hand this over to the real writer when he is ready. Over the past 12 years I have spent nearly 6 years living and working in Africa, Asia and Central America on education, health and community development activities. With that experience also comes the fact that I don't get to see things as new and fresh as they once looked. I was blessed to be able to bring the first mentee Educate Tomorrow ever worked with in Miami along with me this time to Niger and it was a real privledge to experience Antonio's first trip to Africa. Antonio Shleton has been with advertising agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky for over five years as a Broadcast Engineer. He is responsible for studio recording, sound design and effects, music production, and post-production work. He received his A.S. degree in Recording Arts from Fullsail University in Orlando, Florida in 2004. Antonio also has an active artistic career as a hip hop and R&B musician, releasing his first single "Remember" in 2008. He was a foster youth in Miami-Dade County and the efforts of co-founder and Board Chair Melanie Damian and Board Member Chris Damian assisted Mr. Shelton to further his education and he provided much of the inspiration for the formation of Educate Tomorrow. For years Antonio has dreamed of travelling to Niger, West Africa with Educate Tomorrow to see what we are doing there and to experience what it is like abroad. Over the years as a Board Member for Educate Tomorrow Antonio has raised several thousand dollars for Educate Tomorrow and over $6,000 for the Niger program.
I was a bit nervous having a rookie travelling with me to Africa. I thought Antonio might slow me down, might complain about the 100+ degree heat or not agree with what our options were for dinner or the lack of showers, toilets and matresses. But I could not have been more blessed. Antonio had a great outlook and the keen observations and quest for knowledge of a great artist, which he is. He was ready for the challenge and he had a way with engagin children and adults despite the language barrier. We didn't stay in fancy hotels or eat at resturants. There were no hot or cold showers at the end of a long day, just a bucket full of water and the nights were hot and rainy but he spent most of his time focusing on learning about Niger, about the people and about himself. Thank you Antonio.
In Niger Educate Tomorrow is a registered non-profit NGO with the government of Niger and we work to support 2 communities in the Kirtachi area, south of Niamey on the east banks of the Niger river. In the small rural village of Kabey Fo where Virginia was a Peace Corps volunteer from 2000-2002 there is a school with 4 permanent classrooms supporting grades 1-6 with government teachers and a solar panel for electricity at night. This past school year 40 students were enrolled and 100% passed to the next grade level with 5 out of 5 passing the national exam to move from primary school (6th grade) to middle school. Because the village is too small for a middle school students must travel 15 miles to the nearest school to attend grades 7-11. This is not possible on their own without any modes of transporation so 5 years ago Educate Tomorrow started a boarding house in the town of Kirtachi to provide room and board for 7th-10th graders attending from Kabey Fo and surrounding hamlets and small villages. This past school year that ended in June 20 out of 22 students made grade level progress and 2 of the students were the top in their respective classes. This coming school year, starting October 1st, Educate Tomorrow will support 28 students at the boarding house. At the boarding house we provide 3 meals a day, medicine and health care expenses, tutoring for up to 3 hours each night, uniforms, books, bedding and mosquito nets, school supplies and transportation to and from their village 4 times per year. The total cost per student per year is under $800.
It was a great pleasure to join Antonio on his first trip to Niger and I am happy to see that Educate Tomorrow Niger is making great progress on the attainment of higher education for rural youth that prior to 2000 had no classrooms, teachers or access to quality education.
At times the world can feel very small
At times the world can feel very small. A new cutting edge website can reach thousands of new people and can engage, educate and inspire from Miami to Mumbai. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter allow us all ways to get our messages out, to share with one another, to learn and to grow. I encourage you to follow me on Twitter, @B_McNaught, and Educate Tomorrow, @educatetomorrow and to like us on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/ETfanpage
For me, after growing up in a small town in central Illinois, I felt the world was small when I went all the way to Niger, West Africa to serve in the Peace Corps and wound up meeting my wife, also from a small town in the Midwest. Virginia and I grew up just a 3 hour drive from one another and when we met we were living in mud huts with no running water or electricity and we felt that we were a couple of the luckiest people on the planet. We still feel that way. The Peace Corps was the beginning of the love story of how co-founder of Educate Tomorrow, Virginia Emmons and I first met. You can see it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRSrYGZewcA
Now, as I take over as the new CEO of Educate Tomorrow and as Virginia and I grow our family it is a new chapter in our life. We hope that you join us. We are working tirelessly alongside hundreds of Educate Tomorrow volunteers, sponsors, foundations and corporate partners each year to assist the most disadvantaged youth in Miami to succeed in high school, in college and in life. I encourage you to learn more, to get involved. We have learned that when you have genuine interest in creating positive change people will help you to succeed. Come on, join us. Become part of Educate Tomorrow. With your help we can achieve something great.
I am proud to be the new CEO of Educate Tomorrow and to celebrate the launch of our new website created by our friends at Facelift Designs, http://www.faceliftdesigns.com/ . Educate Tomorrow has many new initiatives underway and I will share them with you all on this new blog.