In Atlanta, TX, over 60% of African American households earn less than $20,000 a year.
Children grow up hoping that somehow, a college scholarship and then a professional sports contract will be their way out of poverty. Yet, in the history of the NFL, there are only 6 players hailing from Atlanta.
Map of Cass County Texas highlighting Atlanta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you don’t make it into sports, perhaps you can get a $10 an hour job at the pulp plant. Third prize is minimum wage at one of the retail stores in town. Meth addiction is not a rare occurrence. Sixty percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch at school.
With these prospects in front of them, what is the relevance of school?
And yet, the district is seeing a glimmer of hope in an unofficial program being run on entrepreneurship.
The program started two months ago. Kevin Honeycutt invited a few students to come to a classroom after school. He asked them what excited them, what were they good at. He introduced them, via Skype, to a couple of 20 year olds who had successfully created products and sold them.
This month Kevin and Ginger Lewman issued the same after-school invitation, but 15 people showed up the first day, and about twenty five the second. They all talked about the things they would love to do for a living, what made them unique. For many it was art or crafts, for some it was music, others had different passions.
Then Kevin and Ginger presented the students with a contract they should make with themselves:
I will pour my heart and soul into the effort of launching my business and my brand.
I will believe in myself even when nobody else does.
I will work while others rest.
I will learn anything and everything I need to to succeed.
I will represent myself professionally online and on social networks.
I will persist and succeed.
I will seek out people who know how to help me and be worthy of their help.
I will work on my business every day.
Because if I don’t do this, absolutely nothing will happen. My life won’t change, and my dreams will never come true.
The students got it. This wasn’t a school assignment. They weren’t being held to some standard by some teacher. If they wanted to change their lives, they had to change their lives. And if they didn’t, nothing would change.
Students were asked to gather materials about whatever it is they wanted to sell or build a business around. They were asked to start answering some tough questions in writing:
- What pushes your passion?
- Why do you love this work?
- Who inspired you, and what did that inspiration mean?
- Who supports you, and is always there?
- What is your vision for 10 years or even 6 months from now, and what will your success look like then?
- What will this work support?
For some of the students, this was the first assignment they had completed in school this entire year. They started seeing a different future.
Over the next two months, students are being asked to set up profiles on a student entrepreneurial website, and work out plans about how they are going to market their products and services.
It’s early, and it’s only a universe of about 25 students.
But let’s hope the Atlanta, TX school district, Kevin, and Ginger have found something to ignite hope and passion where there had only been resignation and despair.