In the realm of education, it's results that count. Progress indicators range from graduation rates to overall attendence to reportable discipline incidents to test scores. When administrators look to implement new programs or systems, they want to know what kind of results they can expect from the time and financial investments that will go into them. While the Bright Futures Framework is dedicated to not only the academic success of children, but also their overall health and happiness, our affiliate communities have seen significant gains in various progress indicators.
Recently, The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education examined the impact of the Bright Futures Framework on the students and community in Joplin, Missouri, our founding community. They take a comprehensive approach to their analysis of Bright Futures Joplin, including both the measurable successes as well as the challenges faced in implementing the framework.
What they found is that Joplin's ACT scores increased 14% from 2008 to 2012, high school graduation rates increased 13% from 77% to 87% between 2012 and 2015, and cohort dropout rate fell from 6.4% to 2.8% over the same years. In addition to the measurable academic gains, the study found that volunteerism is up 700% from 2008 to 2012, with community partnerships up 850% over the same period.
To find out more about the successes and challenges faced by Bright Futures Joplin, head over to The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education and read the full case study, Bright Futures in Joplin, Missouri.
Poverty stinks. No matter how you look at it, no matter how people got trapped in poverty, it is a horrible life to live. Some people make decisions that land them in the pit, and others end up there because they were dealt a bad hand, but slice that up any way you like, it’s still a bad way to live for anyone. You can look at the behavior of some adults and justify that they deserve where they are because of how they live their life so they need to suck it up, own their circumstances, and put themselves on a better path. But you can’t really say that about the kids that are truly victims in the matter.
When you look into the eyes of a kid that is wearing clothes that haven’t been washed in days, and know that they are going home on Friday to a home that more than likely isn’t going to have any food on the table for most of the weekend, it is hard not to have compassion for that kid. It doesn’t matter how the parents wound up in a state of poverty, the kid did NOTHING to deserve that life and because of being in that environment, their chance to succeed in life drops drastically. It doesn’t have to be that way and thanks to Bright Futures it isn’t for many.
I sit on the board of Bright Futures USA because I know what is happening in the communities where the faith groups get together with educators and local businesses to rally around kids that need help. If someone is willing to give a kid time and work with them on their reading or writing, or make up a back pack for these kids to take home so that they have food in their bellies over the weekend, then we are giving these kids a chance. A chance to live a different life and a chance to become a better version of themselves.
I can’t be with every kid that needs help, but I can do my part in helping this organization grow. It’s simple really, the more communities that join the Bright Futures program, the more kids that are going to get help. The kind of help that can absolutely change the trajectory of their life. Many of these kids don’t have anyone telling them that they love them or showing them that they matter. Bright Futures reaches out and makes the kind of impact that can take these kids who haven’t done anything to deserve a life of poverty, and gives them something special to hold on to.
People made fun of me at the last Bright Futures USA conference because I was the emcee and could barely get through it. Every time I started a new part of the program, I was so choked up I could barely read. Hearing the stories of these kids really opened my eyes. I can’t begin to tell what it was like to meet the heroes in our program that go way above and beyond to make a positive impact on these kids. The educators on the front line and in the classroom. The volunteers in the churches and the people from the local businesses doing everything they could to help this program grow. I was humbled and grateful to be a small part of what is happening and to be in the presence of these people. There is no one more deserving of a fair chance in life than our kids and this organization has a heart for them and their future. Let’s make sure it is a BRIGHT one.
When I came to Joplin in 2008, it wasn't long before I got a call from one of Joplin's caring teachers who wanted to visit with me about the reality of the children in Joplin. She shared with me a number of heart wrenching stories about the kids she worked with in her classroom. Kids from impoverished situations lacking food, clothing, and other basic needs that most of us take for granted. Kids that, due to circumstances out of their control, came to school every day with worries on their mind that made learning a secondary issue in their lives. I remember at the time telling her we would figure something out.
Not long after, the community came together to help us solve that particular challenge. The end result of that effort was a framework of support that helps to ensure that no child in Joplin goes without. I am very proud to say Bright Futures was born in Joplin, Missouri and even more proud of the partnerships and relationships that have developed in our community to sustain the work long term.
Today, what started in Joplin, now impacts children in 37 communities in 7 states supporting the education and well-being of nearly 180,000 children...and growing. It has become a shining example of what happens when good people come together to sit at the same table to do what's right by our kids for the right reasons.
It did my heart good today to see how far we have come. The attached pictures are of our Joplin Schools' elementary kids at the second annual district-wide kick off of "Operation College Bound" this morning at Missouri Southern State University...one of our many great community partners. I remember a time when our conversations were mostly around high school graduation. Today a high school diploma is an expectation we have for our kids, and the conversation has shifted to setting goals beyond high school. I'm so thankful for Joplin teachers Libbie Burd and Jennifer Statler who developed the concept and brought it to Columbia Elementary School as well as the dozens of Bright Futures Joplin partners who stepped up to make this great program possible just a few years ago. You continue to build doors for so many of our kids who before could only look out windows. THANK YOU!!!!
When Bright Futures began in 2010, we started as a way to address the dismal graduation rate in Joplin, Missouri. It soon became apparent that many of the problems could be traced back to poverty related issues and lack of community engagement with the students. Within three years the graduation rate went from 74% to 85% and community engagement was 10 times what it was before. Early success caught the attention of surrounding communities. We explained our framework and helped them pilot a program in their communities. As the needs grew for community support in yet more communities, Bright Futures USA was born.
The purpose of Bright Futures USA was to support the work of all of the Bright Futures communities NOT to directly engage students or address needs. That is the job of each local affiliate community. Therefore, any funds raised for Bright Futures USA is and has been used to accomplish the following purposes:
· Promote and educate people about the Bright Futures Framework in an effort to add to our network of affiliate communities
· Provide training and structure to new affiliate communities so they are able to create self-sustaining local programs
· Provide personalized marketing packages for each individual community
· Support affiliate communities as they utilize and navigate ever-changing social media channels for the purpose of meeting any student’s basic needs
· Plan and host a National Community Engagement Conference yearly
· Foster an environment of open communication with all affiliate communities through email, website, and newsletters
· Facilitate networking opportunities for affiliate communities which provide settings to share best practices
These services are not free and personnel drive it all. People are all we have. When there are concerns about the fact that we are not meeting students needs with the money raised by Bright Futures USA, it is important to understand that was not the purpose of those funds. We are indeed working hard to raise funds in order to keep moving forward so that we can ultimately impact more communities who are able to directly serve children. We do not want to compete for funds in your local community. With that in mind, our board entered into a contractual agreement with Dr. CJ Huff for four things: grant writing, national corporate fundraising, recruiting new affiliate communities, and training. A grant writer alone, with the experience level and knowledge base needed of our organization, was in the $80,000 a year range. We have contracted with Dr. Huff for all four things for $30,000 for a six month time period, renewable if it proves beneficial. He is currently in between jobs, doesn’t have to earn a full salary, has a heart for the work of this organization, and he is the originator of Bright Futures. The Board of Directors carefully considered the skills and connections that Dr. Huff could bring to the table, coupled with the aforementioned circumstances, and agreed that it seemed like a good time to take advantage of his brief time of availability.
The exciting thing to me is to see communities become engaged with their school children. A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to travel to Poplar Bluff, Missouri to speak at their kickoff breakfast. That community is knocking it out of the park.
Last week I had the joy of attending the kickoff breakfast in Miami, Oklahoma where I was invited to speak. That is my wife’s hometown and her Grandmother and her Father had both retired as teachers from that system. Megan and Heather (co-chairs) are doing an outstanding job. Kim (our Executive Director) will likely highlight some of the initiatives they have rolled out in the near future. Suffice it to say, the creativeness and innovation which is shared across our network is sheer corporate genius.
Being a part of the Bright Futures family is exciting and from my perspective very rewarding. You see I grew up in the home of two teachers. I remember times when we would do without some things we wanted because some other student was in greater need. Teachers are an amazing group and I want to bring whole communities to their aid. Everyone loves kids and Bright Futures is the Difference Maker for tens of thousands now in seven states. YOU make the difference! We simply stand back and applaud your efforts. The staff and Board of Directors of Bright Futures USA stand ready to help you fulfill your mission to connect needs with resources where you live.
Every child needs a Champion. I’m thankful to champion the needs of children. We are your support team but YOU MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!
Steve Patterson, Chairman of the Board of Directors