Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spotlight on Social Responsibility: Education Programs

You may recall in my first post about Corporate Responsibility, I mentioned that Ernst & Young has a strategic focus the 3 E's: Education; Entrepreneurship; and Environmental Sustainability.  I have featured a few programs that base around Entrepreneurship (KIVA and the Corporate Responsibility Fellowship Program with Endeavor), Environmental Sustainability (Earthwatch), but I have yet to touch on Educational Programs. Until Now.

Ernst & Young has a lot of programs surrounding Education and building the lives of students in every city where an office is located. From formal Company alliances through programs such as College MAP and CyberChase to local office mentoring and tutoring sessions at schools such as KIPP. I will try to briefly do each program justice in providing the background and information regarding what is it all about. Each of these programs are structured that any employee can participate and through strategic alliances with not for profit organizations, you could also get involved.

Cyber Chase is an American educational television series for children age 6-12, that teaches children mathematics. The show airs on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and PBS Kids GO! in the United States.
Cyberchase tries to show kids that math is everywhere and everyone can be good at it. The series encourages viewers to see, think, and do mathematics in their world. The show and supporting activities have been designed to support math education and reflect the curriculum standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The show’s philosophy is to foster enthusiasm for math, to model mathematics reasoning, to help children improve their problem-solving skills and to inspire all children to approach math with confidence and a "can-do" attitude.

I actually had the opportunity to catch an episode of the show last year when I was in North Carolina visiting friends (A quick shoutout to Kacy, Nick, Ben, and Marvin J). One afternoon, I was hanging out with four of the coolest young people I know, the Murr children, and watching some cartoons at their parents house. We were watching a television program that despite not previously seeing an episode, I felt like I knew the story line and some of the characters. I could not place why I knew of this show, until finally, after the skateboarding math student saved the day from the evil Cyber-Hackers by solving math problems. The Ernst & Young "Quality in Everything We Do" Logo was shown as the main sponsor and I immediately realized I had read internal communications about the program and its story line. If you have young kids at home they (and you) probably are  familiar with this program. Think of it as a modern day Sesame Street.

College MAP is a program that stands for Mentoring for Access and Persistence. It is a unique, national team-mentoring program, which matches Ernst & Young volunteer Mentors (of all levels, backgrounds and service lines) with groups of local high-school students for monthly sessions focused on:
  • Awareness — exposing students to different college opportunities, and the lifelong benefits of higher education
  • Financial readiness — demystifying the process of applying for financial aid and paying for college
  • Persistence — providing personal support and coaching on the life skills that will help a student stay in and complete a four-year degree
College MAP matches groups of Mentors with groups of high school students for monthly sessions to focus on getting to college. The group mentoring design allows allocation of responsibility among the volunteers (i.e., team members who cannot attend all sessions may still participate). Mentors receive training prior to the program's start, in addition to support throughout the calendar year to share best practices and navigate through tough issues. College MAP Mentors are provided with a curriculum and a resource center, and take turns leading monthly sessions, enabling them to enhance presentation, engagement, and most importantly, coaching skills.

Similar to Endeavor, Kiva, and the other great organizations we collaborate with to provide these programs, we have a not for profit alliance for College Map. College For Every Student (CFES) is a nonprofit organization committed to raising the academic aspirations of underserved youth so that they can prepare for, gain access to, and succeed in college. Since its founding in 1991, CFES has helped more than 100,000 underserved youth in 540 schools nationwide raise academic performance and aspirations, graduate from high school and pursue college.

I have not personally participated in the College For Every Student Program, however I have been closely involved with a great school in the Columbus, Ohio area that is dramatically changing the lives of adolescents. The Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP, is a nationwide network of Charter Schools that target inner city students who may not be the best students but have a dedication to learn and be successful. Oprah Winfrey (my mom's hero) has said that KIPP is "A Revolutionary New School System", and if that is not enough, the true leader of the free world, Bill Gates, has even said he is impressed. In Columbus, we are fortunate to have one of these charter schools, the KIPP Journey Academy.

Over the past few years, I have had frequent interaction with the KIPPSTERS (what the students are called). From tutoring sessions, mentoring field trips, and hosting small carnivals I have seen first hand the progress that is made. Students earn the right to attend events through improved performance and academic excellence. The kids are in school much longer than those in the public school system, often times 7a-5p and every other Saturday, and are for lack of a better term, treated like adults. It is quickly evident that the kids are given choices and each choice has a reward or a consequence. It's not just teaching academics, but also life skills that are often not learned at home. It's a novel idea isn't it, empowering the kids to be better and to teach them the power of decision making? Through the use of dedicated teachers and a full load curriculum, students who come into the four year program (grades 4-8), often reading at a grade or two lower and with deficient math skills, end up testing in the highest percentiles within the first year or two in the program. Its quite remarkable to me, and it adds to the credence that "Knowledge is Power".

These are just a few examples of education focused Corporate Responsibility, and there are many more. If you work at E&Y I encourage you to find a resource in your office to get involved in one of these programs. If you do not work at E&Y there is still hope (Unless you work at one of the other Big Four Accounting firms, just kidding!) and I encourage each of you to look for opportunities to get involved in your own local communities.

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