The five signature initiatives of The Harris Foundation – Dare To Dream, ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, the Dream Tour, the Educational Forum and the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Math and Science Scholarship – are educational programs aimed at making a difference in the lives of students in America. These grassroots initiatives reach into some of the most economically disadvantaged schools in the country and give students real hope for using education to move beyond their current environment.
The reality is that many children in this country are raised in poverty and in the U.S., poverty is still tied to race. Consider the fact that 33% of African-American children live below the poverty line compared to 10% of Caucasian children. Because school budgets are tied to property taxes, schools in the neighborhoods with the poorest residents get about half as much money per student as compared to their affluent counterparts.
The self-perpetuating problem of poverty is clearly demonstrated by the high school completion rates in our nation. Each year, more than one in three students fails to graduate from high school. Among minority students the numbers are even more troubling. Less than 50% of Native American and a little more than half of African American and Hispanic students complete high school on time. In some cities, the graduation rates plummet to 30% or lower overall.
At the Harris Foundation, we know that the cost to the individual and the nation will be great if this problem is not remedied. Millions will be lost in wages, taxes and productivity and incarceration rates and public assistance enrollment will rise. Individuals who do not graduate high school will earn up to $485k less over the course of their lifetimes than those who earn a diploma.
As our global world continues to expand, the US needs to ensure that our future generation is competent, particularly in the areas of math and science. Our children need to graduate high school and college and become capable citizens, ready to produce the technology of tomorrow. The Harris Foundation’s educational programs seek to support the K-16 pipeline in achieving those goals by encouraging students to dream, work hard and build the character needed to achieve their goals.