Years ago, I felt like I was the volunteer of last resort. I sat next to Maddie in the school library. Because of her obstinate refusal to do any classroom work, she was failing nearly every class. She didn't care.
I gave her my High School Challenge:
Multiply the minimum wage by 160 working hours per month.
Subtract taxes, rent, utilities, food, transportation, and medical costs.
What is the remainder?
She sniffed and gave me a "So what?" look.
Here she was, sitting in a publicly funded school, with an all-expenses paid opportunity to jump past the poverty line that awaited if she dropped out.
High school is the best deal around. Some students can take college courses—saving thousands of dollars. Industrially-minded students can learn marketable trades that can lead to apprenticeships after graduation. Apple, Google, Costco, and about 10 other corporate giants are hiring people with only high school diplomas. It's about their determined work ethic.
Students are heading back for another school year. For some, they can't see far enough ahead to know that what they do now will make a difference later. If we really want a better future for our nation, it won't happen in the White House, it will happen in the school house. Sure, we can hope our overworked teachers can connect to every student. They can't. But to really make the most of our tax dollars, find a Maddie near you and give your own version of the High School Challenge.
And for your own background of what's happening in the global world America's student's face, here are some sobering statistics:
Only 16% of America's high school seniors are proficient in math. Here's another fact: America ranks 29th globally in math and 22nd in science among the industrialized nations. Students need to take every STEM (Science, Technology. Engineering, and Math) class they can. It's not impossible to learn these subjects. For students seeking a trade career—they'll need STEM for its applications in the welding, electrical, and composite engineering trades.
College degrees aren't for everyone, but post-high school education usually is. Trade programs can equip students for careers earning as much as their college graduate counterparts. Help a student explore the options. Help a student make the most of their free education. When they graduate they'll be able to take the next steps and won't remain a minimum wage earner needing monthly government assistance.
America created thousands of service oriented jobs—paying minimum wage. But a job isn't necessarily a career. There is a difference. Help a student learn what that difference is now, while they can make the smart choices to pay attention in class, do their homework, graduate, and make America great again—in the way America needs to be great.
Consider volunteering in your local school. As Christians, it's our nation's biggest mission field and our opportunity to give a gift of time that reaps rewards far into the future.