We’re Surrounded by Greatness

We’re Surrounded by Greatness

07/31

Lancaster’s success in the 21st century will not happen with a workforce and citizenship that is segregated or monolithic

I am a recent Lancaster transplant, having moved here from a too-large metropolitan area that had an uncomfortably expensive cost of living. Lancaster was attractive with its burgeoning downtown, smiling citizens and sunny outlook. What is most attractive about Lancaster is its diversity. There’s a healthy mix of blue and red, old and young, historic and contemporary, high end and home spun. The ethnic restaurants represented here are the tip of Lancaster’s multicultural iceberg. The racial diversity of Lancaster is extraordinary and, if capitalized on correctly, will catapult Lancaster into economic, cultural and social success that other urban areas will envy. However, Lancaster’s success in the 21st century will not happen with a workforce and citizenship that is segregated or monolithic. If we are to use economic development as one of the factors for Lancaster’s future success, then this success cannot happen without an educated workforce. In the 21st century – a global marketplace – “educated workforce” translates to needing a 4-year college degree.

My outlook for Lancaster’s ability to build this diverse and educated workforce is sunny, but that is because I work at Attollo. I am surrounded by a diverse crew of middle- and high school-aged young people who are capitalizing on their potential. By “diverse” I of course mean the obvious. Attollo Scholars represent the generational and immigrant patterns of many US cities; African American, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Chinese, Vietnamese, White, Mixed-Race – to list all of them would take up the rest of this blog. To use the iceberg metaphor (again,) Attollo Scholars’ diversity below the surface is genuine diversity one doesn’t immediately recognize. They are athletes, musicians, poets, history-buffs, comedians. They will be future political candidates, military officers, educators, chefs, lawyers and entrepreneurs. Introverts, extroverts, and those somewhere in between. Some come from wonderful large families with a myriad of full- and half-siblings while others are a fabulous only-child. Yet with all this diversity, they all have one thing in common: all want to go to college after high school. And almost all of them will be part of their family’s first generation to attend college. Getting a college degree is a game changer. Those of us who have one know this. This is why my outlook is sunny. I am surrounded by greatness.

Even when I venture out of the confines of the Attollo office, my outlook is sunny. I’ve found collaborators and supporters available to help champion Attollo’s goal of college access and persistence. In my short time here so far, I’ve met champions from the YWCA, Heads Up, the North Museum, F&M’s men of IMPACT and their Ware Institute, Millersville University, The Lancaster County Community Foundation, Achievement First, School District of Lancaster – to list all of them would take up the rest of next week’s blog.

As I take a drink from a glass half full, I know to look beyond our Scholars and collaborators. I know that a quarter of American students drop out of school and that 68% of Pennsylvania’s inmate population are drop outs. I know that only 14% of Blacks and 12% of Latinos will enroll in college and less than half will graduate in six years. I know that the poverty rate of Millenials with just a high school diploma is 22% while the rate of those with a four-year college degree is just 6%. And I know that Lancaster is not immune to these statistics. For Lancaster to succeed, a diverse, college-educated workforce of its own is a must. If not, its success will be like (you guessed it) an iceberg. It might look good on the surface, but the enormities of problems below are monstrous.