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Friday, June 1, 2012

You CAN Make It Work

Lifeplan recently partnered with a law firm to make a difference in the lives of students attending Booker T. Washington, a Georgia public high school. The students experienced Lifeplan as part of the Freedom Writers (FW) initiative, an exceptional 4-year student mentoring program developed by international law firm, Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP to help inner-city youths improving reading and writing, and aim for college.

Associate Director of Social Responsibility for Kilpatrick Stockton, Whitney Munn, added Lifeplan to the Freedom Writers program during the students' senior year. Lifeplan tied together a lot of what the program was already doing, "but in a much more compact and meaningful way," says Munn. For example, the FW program included goal-setting, "But we didn't have the training to help students know what to do with their goals after they had set them." Lifeplan supplied the context, helping students understand who could help them support and achieve their goals. "Our students had never thought of that. Before, they would have said, 'I'm tough. I'm going to make it,' but not really know what that meant. Now they know," says Munn.

Fifty-eight Kilpatrick Stockton lawyers and staff volunteered as mentors. Lifeplan content was condensed to fit the mentors' available time and customized to better address the urban, low-income audience. For example, many students lacked the worldview to understand why some things were important to their long-term success, so extra discussion was added around those concepts. "You can make the content more relevant for different kinds of groups," says Munn. "The program really can be customized." An added bonus was that Lifeplan is a complete learning process. "The fact that Lifeplan gave us content for pretty much a whole semester was like manna from heaven. It was such a great tool!" Munn says that the lesson for other entities that want to create Lifeplan partnerships with schools or other organization is this: you CAN make it work.

Life was very difficult for many of the BTW students during their high school years. Yet many have used the skills and tools of the Freedom Writers and Lifeplan programs to achieve amazing things. When the Freedom Writers initiative concluded, 99% of the 77 students graduated. All but one was accepted into college. They were awarded more than 330 scholarships. "I absolutely think (Lifeplan) was instrumental for these kids," says Munn.

Every time caring organizations like hers create Lifeplan partnerships in order to make good mentoring even better, more of our youth will be able to realize their dreams and goals. And that's the lesson: Together, all of us CAN make it work!

All the best,


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