by: Leonard James III
From pre-school to graduate school, millions of America’s youth have entered a new school year where the next generation of educators, scientists, broadcasters, financial experts, entrepreneurs and engineers will be created.
Strengthening primary and secondary education is vital to securing our nation's competitiveness and for its future prosperity. Improving our education system is a critical piece to America’s success puzzle. This should be the common ground that serves as the platform for our nation’s students to attain the knowledge they need to succeed and compete at a higher level in a global economy.
It's critical that students from all backgrounds have access to the best education and educators possible.
Organizations like the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), which I am honored to serve as Chairman, are working to solve our education crisis with early intervention programs likeLeaders of Tomorrow (LOT), which mentors high school students and prepares them for leadership.
For 20 years, NBMBAA members have mentored 8-12th grade students all across the country with serious talk about bridging the achievement gap. Their focus is on helping students prepare for college and, above all, integrating professional development into their lives. The LOT program starts the educational process at the junior high level in over 25 cities because it’s at that level when personalities are shaped and students begin to define themselves.
We know that participation in Leaders of Tomorrow has positively impacted outcomes and contributions to society in general. Today, corporate America needs more brilliant and diverse minds than ever before. Yet, as the need for brainpower grows, the number of our nation’s young minorities pursuing STEM (science, math engineering and technology) and advanced degrees is decreasing.
Future jobs will require greater facility in math and science. Data released in 2010 by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows U.S. students rank only 23rd in science achievement and 32nd in math ability compared to those in 65 other nations.
The consequences of America's math and science decline are frightening. Thankfully, organizations like the NBMBAA, National Math & Science Institute (NMSI) and National Science Institute (NSI) are sounding the battle cry and building a STEM bridge between the public and private sectors by engaging brilliant thinkers and private donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation in partnership with school districts and universities around the country.
We need public and private investments in math and science and higher education, and we need a commitment to making a difference on a national scale.
In the ever-expanding list of organizations enlisting in the fight to close the achievement gap, none is better positioned than the National Civil Rights Museum. By chronicling America’s history, the museum reminds us of the trials and tribulations of a generation—the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congressman John Lewis, Dorothy Cotton, Little Rock Nine’s Ernest Green—that personally sacrificed to open the doors to a quality education for everyone, regardless of ethnicity.
The National Civil Rights Museum’s Education Equity Initiative will provide steadfast leadership to build stronger communities and brighter futures by improving STEM education, expanding knowledge, developing leaders and driving progress in many cities throughout the U.S. The NBMBAA welcomes the NCRM as a partner in efforts to ensure that higher education does not skip a generation.
Author bio: Leonard James III is Founder, CEO and Chief Strategist of the J3Advisory Group and Chairman of the Board of the National Black MBA Association. He previously served as Corporate Policy Advisor at Exxon Mobil Corporation where he directed minority community outreach and advocacy initiatives. James was also responsible for positioning ExxonMobil’s corporate image and the Exxon and Mobil brands within ethnic communities.