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Out & About in Cleveland

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President of Manpower Development Corporation Presents at The City Club; Lake County NAACP Freedom Fund 2016 Banquet

On Friday, October 14th, we went to a luncheon at the City Club where the speaker was Mr. David L. Dodson, the President of MDC (originally known as Manpower Development Corporation) in Durham, NC. As its website img_5291indicated, for 50 years the MDC "has helped organizations and communities close the gaps that separate people from opportunity. An essential part of MDC's philosophy is that the pathway to opportunity is cleared by creating equity-removing the social, financial and educational barriers that make it harder for those left behind to take advantage of the opportunities America offers. MDC creates programs that employ integrated, sustainable solutions that connect people with the financial supports that can stabilize their lives, the education and training they need to get better jobs, and the industries that will benefit from their labors and improve the entire community."

Before the program began, we stopped off at the table reserved for the "Student Group of Race Relations at Shaker Heights High School" to compliment the students for being there with us. When one of these students asked Mr. Dodson a question during the Q and A, he started his response by saying that "I am proud of your table" and suggested that they might be more qualified to address this audience than himself.

We also spoke with Mr. Michael Lawrence Collins from "Jobs for the Future" who knew Mr. Dodson quite well. When we told Mr. Collins that we worked for an immigration law firm, he said that he was quite interested in immigrants; especially in education opportunities available to the undocumented. We exchanged information and might go out for coffee soon.

During his presentation, Mr. Dodson said that since he arrived in Cleveland he felt a "tremendous spirit" here in terms of being amongst people who take pride in themselves. He said that his purpose for being here was to create a dialogue on economic mobility and how to create a suitable infrastructure for the advancement of young people. As for the MDC, he said that overall, he considered it to be a "think tank with muddy boots" meaning that it wasn't an isolated organization that works strictly from desktops but one that was actively involved in community affairs. He said that the key to what he and the MDC was all about was "equity" or what was need to create a balance in opportunities.

He displayed a map of the United States that showed where areas where economic advancement was high and where it was low and, unfortunately, Cleveland was not very high in terms of being a place where a youngster could expect to advance considerably from the income bracket where he/she was born by the time he/she was thirty. Out of a total of 729 economic community zones in the United States, Cleveland was listed as #37 with #1 being the lowest. Sadly research has shown that the chances were 39% that a person would be in the same income bracket and/or 30% that he/she would have moved only one step forward. Mr. Dodson didn't believe that the economic success of a region itself was as important as some maintained; a rising tide didn't necessarily life all boats. He quoted economist Robert Reich was said that inequality would be less of a problem if upward mobility wasn't so difficult. Mr. Dodson said that research has shown that the "five factors that keep people stuck" are residential segregation, income equality, quality of local schools, family structure and social capital (i.e. the networks that help us understand where the opportunities are).img_5312

He then turned to what can be done to address this problem and smiled reassuringly as he said that his job was to make us feel awful and then help us to feel good once more. He emphasized the key to upward mobility was education; if a person from a low-income area were to obtain a post-secondary credential in a marketable area his/her odds of moving up would be permanently changed for the better. To be sure, other factors mattered too and he used the story of his grandparents as an illustration. He then showed us a slide that concerned "common factors in advanced mobility" which were personal drive; culture of aspiration and urgency within family and community; launching pad institutions that develop confidence and skill; and an economy that generated opportunity for educated people. In addition, contributing societal conditions would have to include a prevailing commitment to racial justice and equity; a strong infrastructure of opportunity; and supportive public policy to made advancement universal-not selective.

Throughout his presentation, he put special emphasis on the need for good adult role models and good mentoring both at home and in the institutions that young people deal with most often such as school and recreation.

During the Q and A, we didn't get to ask Mr. Dodson about how what he was talking about applied to immigrants but he graciously gave us a private moment at the end of the program. He acknowledged that immigrants are a very hard-working people and believed that we need to address removing the societal/legal barriers that keep them from advancing the way that they deserve to be. This affects us all because Mr. Dodson agreed with us that a multicultural work force is imperative for our country's future. He was especially concerned about undocumented young people and recalled knowing several high school valedictorians who were undocumented but were hampered in their educational advancement because universities wanted to charge them the same amount of tuition that they would for out-of-state students.

On this occasion, we were blessed to be able to share a table with Ms. Pat Blochowiak, a member of the East Cleveland Board of Education. Ms. Blochowiak told us of her recent experiences working with high school students at the community gardens and about how she has to carefully monitor a few of them in terms of promptness, proper dress and etiquette, and task completion. It is a challenge but Ms. Blochowiak realizes how important it is that the young people learn these practices now because they will prove vital if they are to progress. We very much applaud her commitment and believe that she deserved to be up on the City Club stage just like Mr. Dodson and the Shaker Heights students because the three parties could make a dynamite impact.

Later that day, we went to the Lake County NAACP Freedom Fund 2016 Banquet at the Pine Ridge County Club in Wickliffe. We were surprised at how much the keynote address by Mr. Gregory L. Forte paralled what Mr. Dodson said earlier in the day. As the program notes stated, Mr. Forte "is a consultant at Pathfinders/Management Performance International (MPI) Consulting where he enables organizations to drive strategic growth with improved work systems, more efficient operations, training and organization development. Mr. Forte has over 35 years of professional experience in managing, leading, and developing growth strategies for organizations..."

As he began his speech, Mr. Forte acknowledged that education is "the pathway for youth to be successful. He talked about how the traditional African proverb, "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child" was practiced firmly in his neighborhood  when he was growing up. For example, if he committed an act of mischief his neighbors would certainly call him on it and by the time he got home (since word traveled quite fast) his parents would definitely call him on it quite firmly. This was because African culture regarded children as "gifts from God" and their future was everyone's future and therefore their responsibility.

In present day, the other old saying of "Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child" is not practiced as much it used to be so Mr. Forte wisely recommended replacing it with, "Spur Stresses and Engage the Child." Mr. Forte spoke with compassion of how today's young person has challenges when he had when he was a teenager concerning drug usage, violence, and the predominance social media so we, as adults must think differently as to how to provide support.

He aptly stated that in his day he had to contend with the neighborhood bully but today the menace is the cyberbully. Although, he readily accepted devices like the iPhone and its various applications as a reality and in many ways an advantage, he was still properly concerned about the lack of interpersonal connection that accompanies such advanced technology. Another appropriate observation, that Mr. Forte offered was that before Facebook we had friends face-to-face.

Thus today, in terms of raising a child, Mr. Forte believed that the "village" should focus on:

****Education which was supported by the NAACP via its scholarship program and by all of us present at this affair because the money raised here would contribute to the scholarships.

****Development of the mind, body and soul which can be helped by the encouragement of productive activities for young people. He suggested that the community partner with both public and private institutions to bring such things about.

****Opportunities such as internships and summer job programs and volunteerism which demonstrate how important it is that the youth give back to their communities.

Mr. Forte contended that all of us adults have the opportunity to get involved and make a difference. He concluded his remarks by challenging us to "think about the future and this belongs to our youth."

Before the banquet started we talked to Mr. Ron Tamborino, a candidate for the 11th District Court of Appeals who once referred a client to Margaret W. Wong and Associates for help on an immigration matter. Another person that we spoke to was Ms. Deborah A. Foley, the former President of United Way of Lake County who really respects Ms. Margaret W. Wong and the work that she does.

We visited with Mr. Everett Walker, a senior at Thomas H. Harvey High School in Painesville who is very actively involved in a program instigated by our good friend Mr. John T. Shepard, Superintendent of the Painesville Schools, that promotes the discussion of racial and other pertinent issues. Moreover, the participants are encouraged to pay it forward and discuss these issues with others. The overall goal is awareness which will lead to potentially volatile situations being diffused before trouble actually starts.

Later, we talked to Mr. Shepard who said students like Mr. Walker are what school personnel "dream about" and we would like them to be a part of our dreams too.

By:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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