Another successful model is Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, a coalition of more than 100 leading businesses committed to improving student achievement within the state. Executive Director June Streckfus and LaTara Harris, director of partnerships and outreach, say the organization has come a long way from its founding nearly two decades ago. In those early years, there was friction. Streckfus reflects: “Educators were saying, ‘You’re [the business community] out there critiquing us, not supporting us,’ [while] business was saying, ‘You’re not producing the core product that we need to advance our company.’”
Through trust-building and performance—more than 3,000 volunteers work with MBRT to impact nearly 50,000 middle and high school students in their classrooms each year—discord evolved into collaboration and investment. Businessman James Pitts, the corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman electronic systems, now chairs MBRT’s board. “I think we’ve moved from animosity to alignment. You can’t just put a Band-Aid on a system if there isn’t core reform going on. By ‘core reform’ I mean the raising of standards, assessments against those standards to make sure students are learning at a high level, and then accountability for teachers, students, parents, and the business community,” says Streckfus.
Another path to success for students and companies alike is providing access to quality
classroom instruction as well as on-the-job training. After four decades, INROADS still represents the nation’s largest nonprofit to prepare talented, underserved minority youth for the corporate world. In 2009, the mentorship organization, which partners with nearly 200 corporate clients, was named one of the top 10 internship programs, and has begun expanding its focus on the high school set. Executive Leadership Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Executive Leadership Council—the nation’s leading organization of senior black executives—recently awarded INROADS a $250,000 grant to launch the College Links pilot program in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. “We’re looking for high-performing, college-bound students with leadership ability who are interested in STEM and business careers,” says Javona Braxton, INROADS’ national director of learning and development. “We want to work with them to develop their college and career goals, and to make sure they understand the link between academic success and career success. We’re preparing the pipeline of future African American members of the C-suite.”
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