Thursday, December 08, 2005

If Only Pro-Bono Work Paid The Bills

In a recent post I talked about some of the cool stuff going on around us, like the MillionDollarHomepage, etc. Quirky and interesting and proof that innovation comes in all forms.

Here's another example, and frankly, it's so much more inspiring. There's a charter school in Texas that's devoted to helping immigrants get their high school education - and works around the newcomers' hectic schedules. A lot of the immigrant students came to America to WORK, after all. They need to pay the rent, and to send money to their families in Latin America, etc. Those who recognize the value of education have, to-date, been inadvertantly shut out of the system because most schools run on the ubiquitous 8am - 3pm schedule. THIS school starts its day after 5pm. And the school's administrators will do whatever they can to help students get to class, including making personal calls to obtuse employers who could care less about their immigrant employees' larger ambitions.

In the interview, the administrator noted (wisely) that "Education" will be the key to America's long-term competitiveness. We are in a dire situation now, frankly, when you consider that just 70,000 engineering students graduated in the U.S. last year, compared to 350,000 in China. (And by the way, a fair number of those U.S. engineering graduates are themselves foreigners, with every intent of going home to China, India, etc. when they graduate!)

Immigrants in America have historically been the source of our country's strength, innovation, and entrepreneurial drive. If you live in Boston or the Bay Area and you're reading this blog, you probably have a Latin American crew helping you with your gardening, snow removal, etc. Ya think that those guys looooove their jobs? Ya think that they don't have bigger ambitions for themselves, or their children? Of course they do!

These are people who WANT to be in America and part of its future. It is in our best interests to think in new ways (like the good-hearted brainiacs who run that Texas charter school) about how to give them the education they need to help us compete globally in the increasingly competitive era that lies ahead.

Unfortunately, the rigors of client service at an agency our size prevent us from handling more than a couple of pro-bono accounts. But dang, at least once a day I learn of a great charity or other worthy cause and think, "Gosh, I'd love to help those people out with some free PR." (In fact the next day on All Things Considered, an organization called Living Water was poignantly profiled.)

If you are a PR pro and have the time and inclination, I urge you to apply your talents in these directions. From the good work we have done in these areas, I can definitely say the experience was was worth a thousandfold of every dime we didn't see!


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