Invest in Our Future

Throughout history, every great era was the result of an educated populace.

No one can select where they’re born or how they’re raised. Chances are if two parents raise a son or a daughter, the child will be much better off than if he or she is brought up by a single parent.

Still, no matter the makeup of the household, when a young child is assisted by a Big Brother or a Big Sister, a mentor, or a tutor, it can make a world of difference in their prospects for success. That’s especially true in struggling communities such as Detroit, Pontiac, Inkster, and River Rouge.

In the spirit of giving this holiday season — and beyond — consider supporting an educational program devoted to helping our youth. Whether as a volunteer, a donor, or a board member, helping a young student improve their skills in reading, writing, math, or science is a gift that keeps on giving.

The efficiencies afforded an intelligent region and state can’t be overstated. As we’ve seen, when a few bright students gather, good results follow. Look at the past success of our region. It was, and still is, the automotive capital of the world.

Throughout history, every great era was the result of an educated populace — whether Athens, Rome, Florence, or the Silicon Valley. And the opportunities generated by a thriving metropolis have proven to attract thousands of new residents.

Consider Charles F. Kettering, an inventor and engineer who, along with Col. Edward Andrews Deeds, established Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co., or Delco, in 1909 in Dayton, Ohio. After Kettering introduced the first electric cash register, he took a turn at developing a high-energy ignition system for automobiles.

From there, Henry Leland, who headed up Cadillac Motor Car Co., ordered 5,000 Delco ignition sets for the 1910 model year. In a short period, Kettering sold his interest in Delco to General Motors and joined the automaker.

While at GM, he introduced numerous advances in propulsion, aeronautics, diesel engines, and armaments. Over his professional career, he received 186 patents — almost all of them developed based on research conducted in metro Detroit. Just think how Dayton would have benefited had Kettering stayed put.

Armed with a strong educational foundation, Kettering flourished. To replicate his success, we must do more to give every student an opportunity to graduate from college, start a business, or lead an organization.

The greatest need is in the poorest neighborhoods. A few years ago, when the YMCA of Southeastern Michigan opened the Detroit Leadership Academy near I-96 and Telegraph in Detroit, it quickly learned a few things about the needs of the student body.

With the first rush of frigid weather, many students missed school because they had no coats. So Reid Thebault, president and CEO of the YMCA, and his staff quickly organized a coat drive. They also launched a clothing drive, provided etiquette classes, and taught the fundamentals of ethical behavior.

There are numerous other ways to get involved. For instance, I serve as a volunteer board member of Beyond Basics, which works with schools (primarily in Detroit) to provide certified tutors to students who have fallen behind in reading, writing, or word comprehension. After six weeks of one-on-one tutoring, 90 percent of the students are reading at their grade level or higher.

To repurpose a famous phrase: If you can provide a child with an education, they will enrich society for a lifetime. db

bR.J. King 

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