Class Acts

    [NOTE: Are there sources for the statistics and statements of facts here? Also, I can't seem to correct the inconsistent line spacing. Thanks -- Cathy Ginther]


    Revolutionizing Career Success One Project At A Time

    We have a problem!

    In California, over 2 million students in grades nine to twelve dropped out of school last year. Over 500,000 of them were in Los Angeles County. Official data shows 33% of black and 28% of Hispanic students entering the ninth grade in Los Angeles drop out before graduation. These are the official dropout rates. There are millions of "hidden" dropouts. Estimates are that over 50% of all students starting high school do not finish. It is obvious that these students aren't failing, the system is failing them.

    Moreover, those who are graduating are not equipped with life and professional skills needed to succeed in a marketplace where jobs are scarce, competition grows fierce for what jobs remain, and it gets harder and harder to pay the bills.

    Where will this leave the next generation? Low-wage jobs, a lack of job security, and unfulfilled dreams from when they were first asked years ago, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

    We also have a solution!

    Project Success Links will be coming to Southern California this year with a pilot project that is designed to inspire and empower elementary and middle school children to make better life decisions by elevating their self-esteem and continuously practicing a higher level of integrity and personal discipline.

    Utilizing the power of the learning Activities installed in OLPC’s XO laptop and project-oriented learning, students will work collaboratively to create projects that mirror real-life situations. Along the way, students will not only improve basic skills but also be able to diagram a path toward career dreams and eventual success on the job. This is done by "connecting the dots" between educational pursuits and career choices.


    The process begins with learning more about personal choices and intent, then being accountable for them. They will make these choices in the projects they work on and their teams of peers will hold them accountable. The next phase encompasses writing, math, knowledge, and research skills, along with goal setting. Then we incorporate critical thinking, computer skills, and interpersonal skills into their repertoire.

    An important feature of our program will be mentorship, which will help the students to set goals and strategically plan to overcome challenges and achieve success in both their projects and their future careers. All of these things will come as a result of their experiences with the projects they work on and the help of their mentors.



    Projects will vary based on the need, location, and aptitude of the students, as well as the availability of mentors. An example of a project would be to challenge the children to be mayor for a day.

    As acting mayor for a day, students will not have time to tackle every problem that exists in the city. So, they will be asked to choose one issue they would like to change in their neighborhood. What is the issue? What are the factors that create the issue or perpetuate it? Who does the issue impact the most? How long has it been going on?


    They can use the laptops to conduct interviews of neighborhood residents and to photograph problem situations using the Record Activity. They will be able to mesh their XOs and share their work with their other team members.

    Then utilizing the Browse Activity, the students can conduct research and document their findings collaboratively using Write. Also with Write, they can create news articles, position papers, or editorials and then add their photos from Record. 


    When they have done their preparation, they can use the mesh to collaborate in the Chat Activity and draft a comprehensive strategy and campaign that will convince everyone in the city that the issue they have chosen should and can be changed in a positive way. Then, using Browse, they can email the materials they have created to city officials and local newspapers and other media.


    It is entirely possible that their campaign will have positive results for their neighborhood. It will certainly have positive results for the students as they enjoy their pride in their completed projects and their new skills.


    Why this can work

    Our youth deserve better technology and more involvement by professionals from all fields, who are essentially the local role models and heroes they should be looking up to. Project Success Links, in partnership with OLPC, will deliver just that. Students will be exposed to the XO laptops and all of the incredible software provided by the Sugar Community. Then we couple that with continual guidance from mentors representing all professions in addition to exciting, flexible, and fun experiential projects. The students are guaranteed to blossom as they begin to truly dream again. Revolutionary change CAN happen in your community with one XO laptop and a project!


    By Brian E. Wright

    Social Entrepreneur and Human Resources Professional