Quincy JonesPhoto Credit: Jason Lewis for the SentinelQuincy Jones Goes to SchoolÂ
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Staff Writer
The students of Bret Harte Preparatory Middle School received inspiring messages from the likes of music producer Quincy Jones, actor/singer Tyrese Gibson, Ambassador Andrew Young, and others as Operation HOPE launched their 5 Million Kids (5MK) initiative.
The objective of the 5MK initiative is to educate five million low-wealth youth and their parents, guardians and teachers in financial literacy. To fund 50,000 new HOPE starter savings accounts for youth on a matched basis. To secure $50 million in earned income tax credit for parents, teachers and adults. To open 50,000 new bank accounts for the unbanked and underbanked, using proceeds of the EITC benefits. And to secure $100 million in in-kind media services to promote the Five Million Kinds initiative.
"HOPE and our 5MK partners believe that financial literacy is American's first 'silver right,' and an essential component in any effort to promote personal self-sufficiency and empowerment," said John Hope Bryant, Hope founder. "Working with leaders from government, community and the private sector, we are looking forward to the official launch of 5MK, our financial literacy initiative targeting youth in a nation-wide campaign to "Make Smart Cool and Sexy."
According to recent nationwide studies, the high school dropout rate amongst all young people is 30% nationwide, and in urban, inner city and under-served communities it hovers between 50-75%.
Additionally, in under-served communities often times a child's choices are molded and influenced by his or her parent's reality. From parents who have never attended college to parents who lack a bank account or basic financial stability.
"I made a decision to be better than my parents," Gibson told the students.
Gibson told the students stories about his childhood growing up in Watts.
"Everyday I went to school just so I could eat," Gibson said. "And I was hoping that I wouldn't lose my lunch ticket. I was hungry. The difference between me and a lot of people was that I had a problem with being hungry. I had a problem with me and my homies going to the mall and window-shopping for things that we couldn't afford. I was that guy on the Blue Line hoping that the police weren't checking times on the tickets. That was me. I had a problem with that. I had a problem with being broke. I had a problem with waking up everyday to get to school and putting my life on the line because everybody is bangin' and slangin'."
Gibson went on to tell the kids that life is a menu, what ever you order they will bring it to you.
Jones also told the students stories about his childhood and how he made it out.
"Many people want to be what they see," Jones said. "All we saw were Tommy guns, dead bodies, and piles of money. We came up in Chicago. I know Watts is bad, but Chicago during the depression made Watts look like Boystown.
"You guys have everything at your finger tips, and I think it's great. You should go after things that really enhance your mind, that will let you grow. Dream high! Dream twice as high, because if you only get halfway there you'll still be in good shape."
The students seemed to really appreciate the message that they received, and the event was a great learning experience for them. The message of staying in school and being focused on your dreams was conveyed throughout the day.
For more information or to volunteer for Operation Hope, visit their website at www.operationhope.org.