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 need 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