youth effort is succeeding

A collaborative effort to use area colleges to bring young people to the region and keep them here appears to be working and will be made into a permanent organization.

The Knowledge Industry Partnership will be relaunched this fall with the idea of turning it into a stand-alone nonprofit, said Josh Sevin, manager of knowledge industry initiatives for the city of Philadelphia.

This is doing what we wanted, said Sevin, who evaluated the program as a consultant before being hired by the city. The question of whether we should go forward doing this was a very short discussion.

The partnership is a collaboration among the city, the state and various nonprofits that was launched in 2003 as a three-year venture. It works with area colleges and universities to do three things: Get more young people to apply to schools in the region; get them involved in the area while they’re here; and increase the likelihood they can get jobs here after they graduate. Nonprofits lead the efforts to accomplish each task. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. is in charge of attracting students, Campus Philly gets them involved, and Innovation Philadelphia helps connect them with employers. The local division of the Pennsylvania Economy League has done research used by the partnership.

The effort is considered important because having bright, young people in the area lures employers, which in turn attract more bright, young people in a chicken-and-egg phenomenon. That’s especially important to Philadelphia, which ranks 92nd out of the 100 largest U.S. cities in percentage of residents with a college degree, according to a report issued last year by the Pennsylvania Economy League and the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board.

Since its creation, the partnership has had an annual budget of around $1 million. About 60 percent of its funds last year came from the state and city, with the rest coming from colleges and corporate sponsorship of events.

Plans are for the relaunched organization to also get money from the academic, public and private sectors, with corporations contributing more than previously, Sevin said. The partnership’s transition into a stand-alone nonprofit will largely be funded by the $1 million the city committed to the organization in the economic-development blueprint it released last year, he said.

The transition comes as leaders of two of the nonprofits involved in the partnership are leaving to run other organizations in Philadelphia. Richard A. Bendis is stepping down as president and CEO of Innovation Philadelphia to run True Product Inc., a company that specializes in anti-counterfeiting technology. David Thornburgh, the Pennsylvania Economy League’s executive director, is leaving to head the nationally oriented Alliance for Regional Stewardship, a nonprofit that promotes regionalism as a key to economic development.

Bendis’ successor has yet to be chosen, and what will become of Innovation Philadelphia after he leaves has yet to be determined. Steven Wray, who has been the PEL’s deputy director for 11 years, will replace Thornburgh.

The participants in the partnership hope to have co-chairs in place this summer and begin building a board of directors. The intent is to have one co-chair be a prominent business executive and the other be a prominent university president, and the board be made of higher-ups from business and academia, Sevin said. The partnership was first chaired by Judith Rodin. After she stepped down as president of the University of Pennsylvania, she was replaced by Philadelphia University President James Gallagher.

Two surveys released by Campus Philly indicates the partnership may have begun to achieve its hoped-for results. A survey the organization conducts at a festival it holds on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway every fall found that 65 percent of students polled last year said they are likely to stay in the region after they graduate. That’s up from 60 percent when the survey was first conducted in 2003.

An e-mail survey the organization conducts in spring had the percentage at 64 percent, up from 50 percent when it was first conducted in 2002.

Neither survey is statistically significant, but both drew from a wide-enough range of schools to make it likely that they’re reliable indicators of student sentiment, said Jonathan Grabelle Herrmann, Campus Philly’s executive director.

The analysis Sevin conducted in December found more evidence of the partnership’s success. Among its findings: Applications to schools that participated in an outreach effort called One Big Campus, which markets the area to prospective college students and their parents through a Web site, brochures and a magazine, grew to 83,500 last year from 74,000 in 2001.

Enrollment at schools that participated in One Big Campus increased 9.6 percent from 2001 to 2004. That compares to 6.8 percent for area schools that didn’t participate and 7.6 percent for other schools in Pennsylvania.

The effort to retain students has led to companies offering more than 4,100 internship opportunities at fairs held by CareerPhilly, Innovation Philadelphia’s effort to link students with employers. More than 2,000 internship opportunities have been posted on the CareerPhilly Web site.

jumpstart early education

College students know that a good education helps develop the skills necessary to succeed in today’s world. Because some kids need extra help to be academically successful, it is important that they are prepared for the challenges they will meet in school before even stepping foot in the door. That’s where Jumpstart comes in.

Jumpstart was established in 1993 with the mission to “see the day when every child in America enters school prepared to succeed,” said Laura Colket, site manager for Jumpstart’s Philadelphia branch at Temple University.

“Jumpstart is a national organization that pairs college students with pre-schoolers from low-income households to help get them ready for school,” Colket said.

The organization partners with colleges and universities across the country to recruit students. It is now in its second year at Temple, and has become quite popular with students from all majors who share a common interest in helping young children succeed in school. This year 40 students were involved.

Jumpstart is an Americorps program, which means that students who participate must fulfill a total of 300 community service hours. According to Colket, students in the program work 10-12 hours per week. These include 60 hours of training sessions about early childhood education and cultural awareness, and working with the children in their classrooms for two-hour sessions twice per week.

Students also receive benefits for participating in the Americorps program. In addition to the chance to help young children, college students receive a work-study and educational award, which consists of a $1,000 voucher to be used for books or tuition.

Sessions are divided into three types of literacy and social activities: circle time, one-on-one reading time and choice time, in which the children can choose from a variety of activities.

Students fulfill a variety of positions within the program. Team leaders direct the corps members, whose main duty is to work one-on-one with a specific child. A volunteer coordinator works with the other student volunteers and organizes Jumpstart for a Day, an annual event held in April that raises awareness of the program, recruits new students and gets new children involved.

In addition to the organization’s direct work with children, Jumpstart also sponsors a national campaign called Read for the Record, which, according to Colket, “tries to set the record for the most number of children and adults reading the same book together on the same day.”

The date for this year’s reading challenge is August 24, with The Little Engine that Could as the book of choice. The event is sponsored by Starbucks Coffee, American Eagle Outfitters, Pearson/Penguin Publishers and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Starbucks will be selling copies of the book from August 21 through the 28, with all proceeds going directly to Jumpstart. The event will be televised live in New York City on NBC’s The Today Show.

Temple’s Jumpstart program is now accepting applications for the 2006-2007 academic year. The program begins in mid-September, after an intensive two-week training period.

To apply to become a Jumpstart corps member or to learn more about Jumpstart, visit www.jstart.org, or contact Laura Colket at lcolket@temple.edu or 215-204-3347. For more information on Read for the Record, visit www.readfortherecord.org.

student forms network for Darfur

Standing in Swarthmore College’s cafeteria in the fall of 2004, Mark Hanis read articles commemorating the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. At the bottom of the article, Hanis noticed a small blurb about a genocide currently occurring in Sudan. Holocaust stories from Hanis’ four surviving grandparents popped into his mind. With the words “never again” repeating in his head, Hanis asked himself, “What can I do?”

The Genocide Intervention Network was created by then-senior Hanis and fellow political science major junior Andrew Sniderman. Hanis credits much of the group’s initial success to the Center for American Progress, a non-partisan think tank that creates and advances policies for domestic and international problems.

“We were fortunate to have a fiscal sponsor, the Center for American Progress,” Hanis said. The Center provided lawyers and other staff members to help get the Genocide Intervention Network get off the ground as a non-profit organization.

Since Hanis’ graduation in 2004, the Network’s staff has grown considerably. It is now located in Washington, D.C. Though the Network’s logistics have expanded over the past two years, its goals remain the same. It continues to focus on education, advocacy, and fundraising.

“People don’t think they can make a difference,” Hanis explains. “First, we have to educate by telling people they can.”

The Network’s priority is the protection of Darfurians. This includes strengthening the African Union financially and logistically. Though the Union is weak, it is the only international group that has any mandate within Sudan. The Network is also pushing for a UN peacekeeping force, sanctions against the Sudanese government and oil businesses, a no-fly zone over Darfur, an arms embargo, and the freezing of the assets of rebel groups and officials.

The Network’s implementation of its goals has changed slightly over the last two years.

Hanis said that the Network started with students as its primary target audience, but now that it has gained momentum and influence, it is becoming more strategic and targeting certain key members of Congress. It is also putting programs and workshops together in collaboration with other organizations, such as the Save Darfur Coalition, the Holocaust Memorial Museum and Human Rights Watch.

The Network also organized the first broad-based student initiative for Darfur, the Power to Protect campaign. The campaign lobbied Washington, held a mass rally and conducted grassroots training sessions in Washington, D.C. Over 70 colleges participated in the event over the weekend of April 28.

Hanis believes that Philadelphia students can be a big asset toward helping the people of Darfur.

“It’s as easy as getting on a train,” he said. The large Sudanese population in Philadelphia also makes it easier for Philadelphia students to get involved locally.

Hanis believes the goals of the Genocide Intervention Network are realistic.

“If we are active, it is realistic,” he said. “The more involved, the quicker our goals will be reached.”

Over a quarter of a million dollars was raised by the Network, mostly from donations by students. After all, Hanis was just a college student when he created the Genocide Intervention Network, and its scope and influence has grown exponentially since.

mission possible: find textbooks at reasonable prices

At the start of each semester, complaints from students about textbook prices abound. Every year we play the same, tired game; we make the same complaints, then resort to buying some percentage of our books at the overpriced campus bookstore so the students are always the losers in the end. But one man is trying to change textbook prices by hitting the problem at the root.

Dan Lieberman, owner of the privately owned bookstore Dynamic Books near West Chester University’s campus, started his bookstore in his dorm room during his sophomore year at West Chester in 1991. Lieberman was one of the few college students who, at that time, owned a computer. He made a database of sellers and buyers, who would eventually meet up on campus. “People would call me to list a used book and others would call to buy a book,” Lieberman said. During the summer between junior and senior year, he started buying used books from students and soon Dynamic Books was born.

Recently, after continuously hearing complaints from students about textbook prices and noticing how costly books have become over the years, Lieberman decided to take action. “Literally, ten years ago an economics book would be about $35. That same book is now $80, $90,” said Lieberman. “I see it going up by so much. The prices of books have far exceeded inflation.”

With that in mind, Lieberman has turned to a reasonable solution: destroying on-campus bookstore monopolies by opening the market to multiple sellers. In order to do this, Lieberman wants required books lists from the university to be released to privately- owned and online bookstores at the same time as on-campus bookstores. “If the lists are required to be made public, the same standards would be for everyone: online, campus bookstores, private, whatever,” suggests Lieberman.

If lists are made available to all stores, competitors will force on-campus bookstores to provide better service, such as more buyback locations, cheaper books, and more hours. “If we really want to make prices fall we have to introduce competition. A great example of this is the University of Delaware, which has private competitors right down the street, and they have buybacks all over campus,” Lieberman said. “The Delaware campus bookstore is a great competitor because the competition is there. If it wasn’t there, they wouldn’t need to be.”

But this campaign needs help from both students and the state government. House Bill 1842 is currently working its way through the legislature. If students sign Campus Campaign’s petition, legislatures will see that this is a major issue. Lieberman is also planning to recruit students and college organizations to collect signatures from students on all Pennsylvania colleges. If you’d like to sign the petition, you can do so online at www.campuscampaign.org.

Though success may seem unlikely to pessimistic students out there, Lieberman believes that the bill has a chance. “This is really a hot item for families. It’s an opportunity for representatives to show their constituents what they truly care about. I really can’t see how any person can reject this proposal.”