Q. What led you to become involved with dropout prevention?
A. Dropout prevention is something that is near and dear to me, due to my own background. I grew up with many risk factors, including being in a single-parent household. I reflect on the reality of being a kid who had to live with all of those risk factors, and in fact, I have always hated the term, “at risk.” But there were several people, including my 3rd grade teacher, who broadened my horizons beyond the three-room house I grew up in.
Several decades ago, I was involved with multiple volunteer efforts and organizations to keep students in school and to graduate in my home city of Charlotte, North Carolina. I have worked as a volunteer Guardian Ad Litem, and with organizations such as the Children’s Law Center, and the board of directors for the Department of Social Services. Those experiences and events eventually led to a 17-year stint on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, with five consecutive years (1997-2002) as chairman.
Thus, my personal and professional background attracted me to this organization. When the opportunity was presented to me by a colleague, I immediately said “yes.” I felt my background and experiences could bring value to the work of this organization. Both as a recipient of "at-risk" services and as a policymaker of support services, I'd hoped to be able to help shape the work of our organization when given the chance.
Q. What do you see your role on the NDPN Board being?
A. From a professional perspective, I can share insights from the business community and from my own personal experiences and lend a sense of legitimacy to the work and commitment of the many dedicated staff of the Center/Network.
The business community is looking for diverse talent. In cities, a disproportionate number of kids of color are dropping out. Businesses desire a diverse working environment, and so recognize that investment in education is needed.
My time in marketing has afforded me skills and expertise as has my work as a volunteer. This blending of business and volunteering has served me well. My experiences over the years with the School Board was recognized by the Council of Great City Schools in 2001 with their Educator of the Year award.
Q. What is your vision of what the Network can do to improve the educational attainment of all young people?
A. There's one thing that I've learned from my many experiences and that is there needs to be a common language for effective communications to take place, and NDPC/N can provide the syntax necessary for a universal conversation about the impact of students dropping out of school, and also what can be done to address and prevent students from dropping out of school.
As an organization, we have the responsibility to provide our members with something of value to them. The dropout issue today is the challenge to prepare all students to be college or career ready so we can compete in the global economy. As more and more organizations, including schools, community organizations, and businesses, seek information about dropout, we need to be THE organization they turn to. The Network can be the "gold-standard," the first organization that people go to and look to for guidance and assistance in the world of dropout prevention services.