Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who rescues the graduates from failure?

Only 1 in 4 entering high school will graduate, began the NPR audio show. The example they used to illustrate their story on All Things Considered was former gangbanger, Patrick Lundvick. He's a dropout. He hustled drugs. He ended up in jail.

Today, he isn't willing to completely give up the drug-world friends of his old life, but he is willing to chase a new life that includes a job.

On the drive home from the office, the interview played in the background as I mentally reviewed the day. I caught snippets of it -- it detailed the stats for drop outs, half are black, most end up unemployed, unemployment crises leads to jail time. When the show introduced Alternative Schools Network, a Chicago-based recovery program to get drop-outs back on track, my attention perked up.

Whose creating programs in my own community to help dropouts, I wondered. Can they really alter the course of their life?

I was riveted when Lundvick said, "Everyone can change — everyone."

I believe that. I believe even I can change. I watched it happen. I lived it. Lived through it and came out the other side. When I started managing I told my staff, "You can't make a mistake I haven't already made." For the newbies I would add, "If you make a mistake, no one dies. It's not the end of the world. Learn from it and move forward."

"Everyone can change — everyone." Patrick Lundvick

As I continued the drive home I wondered how many managers make it, 3 out of 4? Half? Or are the stats closer to the 4 million students starting ninth grade this fall from which 1 million will eventually graduate?

I considered the challenges of changing, how difficult it is when given the same scenery day after day. We have to give up something to change, the status quo, the 'bad known,' preconceived beliefs, friends who have undue influence over us and even the job itself. At one job, I went from the backseat complainer and criticizer to the pro-active employee that said if it needs to be done, I'll do it. I stopped picking up the banner for everyone else's cause. It wasn't easy. Even Patrick Lundvick was having trouble separating his drug life from the one he wants.

During the course of the interview Lundvick stated, "I can't say I will not hang out with the people I know, 'cause some of the people that are in that life, have saved my life."

It's hard to disengage when the connections go deep. I considered the strength of character it would take to rub shoulders with friends closing $75K cocaine deals while you dog a job at Kinkos. It's all about choices and where you want to end up.

I wondered who rescues graduates who get jobs, but who drop out mentality or emotionally, for any number of reasons. Who reaches out to managers who let them fall through the cracks? A recent e-newsletter from Tibor Shanto said, "Many get into a routine, one that perhaps delivered some level of success for some time, and they stick with it, no matter what is going on in their world." It seems like we could all use a wake up call. A gentle nudge to look at the world from where we want to end up, not where we've been, or who we've been.

All of us could use better job skills. And maybe a rescue. Who pushed your career the right direction?

NPR.org | School's Out: America's Dropout Crisis, quote at 3:35 in audio
The Pipeline | Removing The Barrier From Sales – Sales eXchange – 107

Consequences of Dropping Out of School | Press Release (PDF);
Executive Summary (PDF); Report (PDF).