The other week I had multiple meetings where I spoke to a large group of people, several small groups and had numerous one on one conversations. At each encounter, I explained that 1 in 5 youth in Metro Phoenix are unengaged, and that the organization I lead conversely keeps youth engaged. I thought I spoke articulately, I observed active listening behaviors, and I answered thoughtful questions. So it was safe for me to assume that everybody understood that 20% of Phoenix’s 16-24 year olds aren’t working or in school. That 1/3 of these unengaged youth have disabilities; and that NorthBridge’s multi-layered college success program is incredibly successful in helping students with learning disabilities pursue their postsecondary goals and earn degrees, right? No they didn’t. They are now aware; they know something they didn’t before, but they likely didn’t walk away with a true understanding. So what happened? Am I not the communicator I thought I was? Was I trying to accomplish too much? Did I forget that knowing and understanding are two different things? Yes, yes and yes.
Here’s what I mean, I know enough about football to enjoy watching it, but I don’t understand the theory and complex concepts that teams use to beat the competition. So how does NorthBridge help keep youth with learning differences engaged? Of course we teach this skill and that skill, but that’s not going to help you understand how we help this underserved population. We help, by helping them discover their own potential, and inspire them to pursue it. Albert Einstein said, “Success is 80% attitude and 20% skill.” The key to getting more youth, 16-24 year olds, engaged is helping them get the right attitude regarding themselves and their future, which is most effectively done by building on small victories which eventually lead to success. So again, how exactly does NorthBridge do it?
We believe young people with learning disabilities can succeed in college, and we assist them in applying, enrolling, and registering for accommodations. Self-doubt stops so many young people from taking that next step and it doesn’t help that many 18 year olds with learning disabilities haven’t been encouraged to pursue postsecondary education. From a young person’s first interaction with NorthBridge they know we believe in them, and we challenge them to set, work for, and realize their goals.
We create a routine where students develop great habits and experience success as they spend 4 hours each week with their mentor and academic specialist. It eases students’ minds by just knowing that they have multiple hours throughout the week to work with a team of people who want to see them succeed. The students also benefit from the consistency of their NorthBridge support schedules, which allows them to build a strong rapport with their mentor and academic coach.
Trusting relationships are developed because we believe in our students and provide structured support in a safe and encouraging environment. Think about it, do you take risks when no one is there to catch you? NorthBridge becomes the safety net that allows students to accept challenges, try new things and build their confidence. It’s been said that success builds on success and that’s what NorthBridge helps these unique learners do; build on success.
I know there are many people who believe that an intervention like NorthBridge is cost prohibitive or can’t be scaled. To them I ask, what are the alternatives? The average unengaged youth costs taxpayers an average of $215,580 over the course of their lifetime.* Earning an associate’s degree adds over $400,000 to one’s lifetime earnings, which equates to an additional $80,000 in taxes. So by my calculations, doing nothing can cost over $300,000.
NorthBridge’s success rate is 87% and our alumni secure employment at a rate of 25% higher than their counterparts nationally. NorthBridge works and it’s a smart investment for you and for us.
*Clive R. Belfield, Henry M. Levin, and Rachel Rosen, The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth (Corporation for Economic and Community Service and the White House Council for Community Solutions, 2012); available at: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED528650.pdf