He’s not finished yet. At Atlanta-based Capital Commercial Development Group, he’s is designing a similar program. Recently retired from the military, Thornton, 44, deliberately sought employment with a company that had a “community- and faith-based ethos” of giving back to local schools in need. “We’re in the process of finalizing a partnering arrangement with a high school in Savannah, Georgia, that’s had some challenges. We’ll come in, talk to the students, provide insight, and talk about the soft skills—especially critical thinking—that are needed to succeed in the business community.” Thornton eventually plans to offer internships to students.
Professionals like Thornton are doing their part to close the K–12 education divide, ensuring that our next graduating classes will not exit school to unemployment lines and unproductive lives. In this final installment of our series, we take a look at the promise and progress of educational upgrades through business enterprises, community activism, and powerful partnerships.
Now more than ever, business leaders and educators are seeking collaborative models—ranging from curriculum development to direct institutional management—that work. Major corporations have made a huge investment in schools, and contribute roughly $3.5 billion to them each year. For some companies, such activity is nothing new. Take Chicago-based Ariel Investments L.L.C. (No. 6 on the be Asset Managers List with $5.5 billion in assets under management).
Fifteen years ago, the firm founded Ariel Community Academy after being awarded corporate sponsorship of a public school through former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s New School Initiative Program. The school’s administrators targeted Chicago’s North Kenwood area, one of the city’s most underserved communities, and designed a corporate–family–school partnership that has helped make Ariel one of Chicago’s top-performing elementary schools. During the 2009–2010 school year, 89% of Ariel’s students who took state tests met or exceeded state standards, compared with 70% of students in the district. Launched with 80 students, the school now has 547 students, pre-K through grade 8. Ariel’s principal, Lennette Coleman, says, “Our school is cutting-edge because we go beyond financial literacy. We teach our students how to use money to work for them, how to invest it, how to use it entrepreneurially, and how to manage it over time. In that sense, we’re a leader.”
(Continued on next page)