Reading about the current unrest on college campuses around race and diversity issues makes me reflect on the last 25 years of working with low-income youth as founder of Summer Search.  To date, Summer Search is in 6 different cities and has empowered over 5,000 students.  99% of them graduate from high school, 93% go on to college and 75% graduate from college! Private colleges are eager for our students and often are willing to offer full tuition scholarships.  Why?  And why do so many graduate from college when they come from schools where almost 90% of their peers do not?  I’m convinced that the answer lies in three words: exposure, recognition, gratitude.

The last two blogs have been about exposure (living and working with kids from different economic backgrounds) and recognition (understanding that low achieving schools do not provide the same academic preparation and it takes a while to catch up), and today is about gratitude.

Award Night Carlton and Benji

Award Night Carlton and Benji

As someone who has spent the last 25 years fund raising, I understand some of the very complex feelings associated with gratitude.  Yes, I’m grateful and blessed to have raised the money that has empowered thousands of kids – and yet, at the same time, I’m angry, so angry that so many fine young people have been cheated of opportunities in the first place.  My question to readers is: can we be grateful and angry at the same time?

The answer is yes.

Students who overcome the limitations of poverty and go on to become successful learn to reconcile these two conflicting emotions.  They experience gratitude for the opportunity of getting an education as well as learn how to say thank you over and over for the many blessings they receive.  This essential skill opens doors for them that might have stayed closed.  At the same time, they feel anger for the social injustice they and their peers experienced. This is what fuels the energy to give back.

Here is to a life time of cherishing both to create a better more just world for us all!