Ten years ago this month, I was wrapping up my senior year of college: turning in my thesis, saying goodbye to good friends… and realizing that I probably should have started applying for jobs back in January.
I got lucky. Through a connection made the previous summer, a dream job fell into my lap. 2012’s newly minted college graduates might not be so lucky – a recently released study says that half of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. It’s tough, reading statistics like that, to wax poetic about the importance of a college education – and yet, that’s exactly what I’m about to do.
I’m raising money for two fantastic Educational Alliance programs: College Prep, which helps high school students prepare and apply for college, and College Access and Success, which does the same for parents of children in our Head Start preschool. 21st Century philanthropy demands systemic change and long term results, so I talk a lot about how opening the door to college for low-income adults helps them get better jobs and make more money: Most college graduates earn $1 million more in their lifetimes than non-graduates. Then I talk about how kids whose parents went to college are more likely to go to college themselves – so, our programs create opportunity not only for current clients but for the generations to come.
And I believe all this, don’t get me wrong. Reading dire statistics about 50%+ unemployment for college grads only underscores the point. A college education isn’t just a good thing for our College Prep and College Access participants – it is an essential thing. If it’s that dire out there for those with degrees, then not having one is simply not an option.
But, that’s not why these programs are so important to me. When I think back to my college experience, I don’t think of it as job preparation, I think of it as the complete remaking of myself. College changed how I think and how I look at the world. It fundamentally shaped the person I am today. As an undergraduate I learned to step out of my comfort zone and accomplish things I’d never even dreamed of.
And that is why I am SO excited for College Prep’s 40 graduating high school seniors who will head off to college in the fall – and for the College Access parents who will do them same. I pray that the job market will improve and that they will get the economic benefits they so desperately need – but more than anything I am excited for the opportunity they have earned to reinvent themselves into whoever and whatever they want to be.
Amanda Brandes is the Development Communications Manager in our Financial Resource Development department.