A few weeks ago, I had the distinct honor of presenting to student assemblies at all three Flint high schools. I was asked to speak about opportunities in technology, business, and entrepreneurship — kind of right up my alley! Flint is where I grew up and attended grade school through high school, but I dare say the situation has changed completely from when I was growing up there. Most of the General Motors auto jobs that were ubiquitous when I was a kid are now gone. Flint is now the national poster child for rampant crime, failing schools, and struggling communities. However, in the midst of all this, I found some good news. Many of the school staffers I met seemed to exhibit extraordinary dedication in the face of very difficult conditions. To my (pleasant) surprise, I encountered hardly any students who said that wanted to be a “baller” or a rapper. Most had more realistic goals such as nurse or auto body shop owner or pathologist. That was heartening, and reflected the career counseling that the students are receiving starting in 7th grade.
Young people in Flint face a myriad of problems every day, but many are determined to succeed no matter what. It is up to the adults to fight for opportunities for them, and to create a community and a school system that give them the best shot at success. I’ll have much more to say about that in a future post.