“We are not a poverty center. A poverty center looks like poverty; we look like the solution. A kid goes into that ceramics studio; he works with first-class equipment and materials. When he looks up on the shelves, he sees the work of world-class artists. You provide kids with good things, you expect them to do good work, and don’t worry, they’ll do just fine.”
Sub-Issues: Secondary Education; Youth Job Skills
Youth in impoverished urban environments have few opportunities to reach their full potential.
The Skoll Awardee: Bill Strickland was a struggling high school student in Manchester, a Pittsburgh neighborhood devastated by the steel industry’s decline, when he met Frank Ross, a ceramics art teacher who became his mentor and friend. Ross taught him about clay and introduced him to jazz and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Bill was inspired to “bring that light into my neighborhood to people who deserve it as much as anybody else, and who would respond to it as wholeheartedly and creatively as anybody else.” In 1968, Bill founded Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) to offer an arts program and exhibition space. In 1971, he assumed leadership of the Bidwell Training Center (BTC), a vocational training program. In 1986, a new 62,000-square-foot facility opened with art and recording studios, computer classrooms, a music hall and an industrial kitchen. Manchester-Bidwell Corporation holds and operates these and other subsidiaries, which are nationally recognized models. At the time of the Award, the National Center for Arts and Technology (NCAT) had been established as a supporting organization to replicate the MCG and BTC programs, and arts and technology centers were operating in San Francisco, Grand Rapids, and Cincinnati, and in development in and other U.S. cities.
Impact since joining the portfolio in 2007:
- Working in 23 cities with eight centers open, seven cities studying the feasibility of developing centers, and seven cities in preliminary consideration.
- Local programs serve 1,750 students per year. Younger students attend afterschool programs in fields such as web design and photography, while adults learn skills from phlebotomy to pharmacy technology.
- MBC runs an after-school arts program for up to 500 children per year, with children in the program at 98 percent likelihood of graduating high school – twice the local average.
- Bidwell Training Center has a 78 percent graduation rate, an 80 percent job placement rate, and serves 200 students a year in adult career training programs.
- The MCG Youth and Arts program has a 93 percent rate of on time graduation, versus the national rate of 75 percent.
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