I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. I just returned from a weeklong conference sponsored by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (the denomination of First Presbyterian Church in Nebraska City). According to its website a CREDO conference is designed “to help PC(USA) teaching elders [pastors] cultivate their spiritual, vocational, health, and financial well-being, as well as their leadership potential.”
CREDO is a Latin word that means “I believe” or, more specifically, “I give my life to”. There was a lot of that time away that was restorative and helped me to focus on being a better dad, husband, pastor, and community member. One of the things that we were asked to think about was a big dream that we had; they called it a “BHAG- Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” or “Mi Gran Sueno”. I wanted to share my BHAG with you because it will affect you in some way and you have an opportunity to be a part of this big goal if you want to be.
Here it is.
I want to create a scholarship fund that ensures that any senior graduating from Nebraska City High School receive full tuition and fees to a Nebraska state public school or its equivalent, for four years.
According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln website that amounts to $8,169.50 (http://admissions.unl.edu/cost-aid/tuition-fees.aspx) a year. That’s a total of $32,678 per graduate from Nebraska City High School. Last year there were 89 graduating seniors, that’s $2,908,342 over their four years.
Now that you’ve gotten up from fainting looking at those figures let’s talk about why I think this is important.
From Indiana University Northwest Chancellor, William J. Lowe, “According to new data, based on an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute, Americans with four-year college degrees are not only equipped for a fulfilling adult and professional life but made 98 percent more an hour on average than those without a degree. And, the wage gap is only increasing, up from 89 percent five years ago, 85 percent a decade earlier, and 64 percent in the early 1980s.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-j-lowe/education-is-worth-the-in_b_5767518.html)
I know that college is not for everyone; I know that not everyone needs financial assistance, but I also know that education and access to education has always been valuable when increasing opportunities for all people. According to the 2010 censes 17.8% of our population has a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the total for the state of Nebraska is 28.1%, the average for the United States is 30.4% (the first time in history that we’ve been over 30%).
As you can see we are way behind the average and we can do better.
I believe if we can offer great public schools and then guarantee everyone, regardless of merit or need, a chance at a four year degree not only will we attract residents to our town who are interested in better education, better opportunities, and better jobs, we will also offer an opportunity to students to break the cycle of poverty that can lead to poor health, poor decisions, and little, if no, hope.
Like the GI Bill before it, this Big Hairy Audacious Goal gives us an opportunity to invest in our young people and provide a model for how our neighbors around us can get back on their feet and be a part of the next great wave of US History, witnessing to the power of a small town of dedicated people.
“American history has proven that personal and public investment in college and knowledge yields huge dividends. During the past 150 years, the United States emerged as an industrial and economic giant, democratized education through the land-grant and public university system, and became a global leader in science. During this time, continued growth transformed American society and kept the nation strong. It produced a new class of wealthy industrialists, a prosperous middle class, and provided opportunity for all Americans, including generations of immigrants. It also created the world's first sustained upwardly mobile labor force.” Vartan Gregorian (the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-convener of the June 25 conference at the Library of Congress celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act and the National Academy of Sciences.) (http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2012/07/02/investing-in-education-is-key-to-americas-future-success)
It’s going to take a lot of time, energy, passion, and most of all money, but I believe this big dream is one that can be made a reality.
At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.
Favorite: The King of the Hill Basketball League, it is the most fun recreational league I have ever been a part of even though I am terrible at basketball.
Not Favorite: The lack of housing options for people in transition and in need of help in Nebraska City.