What It Takes: Mentors, Motivation, Moxie and Moms

by Guest Blogger
June 24th, 2008

by Leanna Landsmann

Every June we’re treated to cap and gowned seniors en route to their high-school graduations, proud families in tow. We smile and give them a ‘thumbs up.’ But we must also pause to see the drop outs as clearly as the graduates.

How did these students persevere when so many with so much more fail? What’s in their secret sauce? Can it be bottled for others?

One million students drop out of high school each year. The literature is packed with reasons: poverty, lack of college-bound culture at home, poor performing schools, low expectations and high pressure to reject academic success, too few great teachers and counselors. What more can the “village” it takes to raise a child do to prevent this?

As board chair of Greatschools.net, an organization that helps parents put their kids on a path to college, I stew about this more than your average Jane. After umpteen decades of ‘school reform,’ I’m angry we’re still slogging in place.

So I look forward each March to a call asking, “Do you want to review scholarship applications again this year?” I drop everything to pour over submissions from high-achieving, low-income New York City seniors who, if chosen, will get a generous four-year free ride to college from a family foundation with a bold-face name. From several hundred applicants, three-dozen are chosen to be interviewed. From that group, the foundation selects 25.

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