TMJF Chairman Jenkins Partners with First lady Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative

Helpig High School Students Navigate the Pathways to a Post Secondary Education

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Our Chairman Malcolm Jenkins joined former First Lady Michelle Obama and several other change makers as a panelist of her Reach Higher Initiative’s Beating the Odds Summit, held at Howard University July 23.  The mission of the summit is to support students who have overcome obstacles to graduate from high school and commit to continue their higher education.  In addition to Chairman Jenkins, the panel included former Beating the Odds student Rachel Scott, Robin Hood CEO Wes Moore, and Community College Graduate Ariel Ventura. Among the topics discussed were navigating freshman year; career building skills, ways to succeed in and out of the classroom and mental health.

For the fifth year in a row, the Reach Higher initiative celebrated the Beating the Odds Summit to support students who have overcome obstacles to graduate from high school and commit to continue their higher education. Mrs. Obama established the Reach Higher Beating the Odds Summit in 2014 while in the White House. It started with a small group of students from across the country in a roundtable with her.  She celebrated their commitment to education despite overcoming immense obstacles along their journey to higher education.  During the summer of 2015 and 2016, Mrs. Obama expanded the small gathering to include over 100 college-bound students representing urban, rural, foster, homeless, special needs, and underrepresented youth who had overcome incredible obstacles to persist through high school and commit to attending a post-secondary institution.

 In today's global knowledge-based economy, it's imperative that young people continue their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, a four-year college or university, or in the military. Up to 40 percent of low-income students who graduate from high school with a plan for postsecondary education fail to show up on campus to start their classes, due to a phenomenon known as Summer Melt that impacts students motivation to register and attend college.  The Beating the Odds Summit is meant to help give students the additional guidance, encouragement, and social-emotional support they need so they continue to beat the odds and get a degree.

More than 50 first-generation college students selected by local non-profits participated in the day-long workshop focused on strategies to succeed while pursuing higher education and build a foundation for a meaningful career starting freshman year. Malcolm talked with the students about having faith in yourself and feeling good about setting goals and timelines that work for students. “It’s okay to take your time,” Jenkins said.  “Some people will show up day one (at college) and know exactly what they want to do and they’ll go right at it.  Some people won’t figure it out until much longer and its okay,” he added.

A topic of importance to the former first lady is mental health and building awareness and understanding around this topic and how having mental health issues can influence and impact students’ college life and experiences.  "…for me, mental health wasn't anything we talked about when I was in school,” Jenkins said.  He added however, that as a person responsible for many things, having a safe place to discuss his responsibilities and the pressure, stress and anxiety that may come with that are very important.  "A lot of you are first-generation college students… (and) “you feel like your family is counting on you, depending on you. You have these outside pressures that are on top of being a college student. You have to find ways to recognize that and deal with that in a healthy manner," Jenkins added.

The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation mission is to effectuate positive change in the lives of youth.  Mental health and wellness are key, particularly for youth in vulnerable communities.  Stay tuned to learn more about how The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation is enhancing our existing programs and please feel free to send in your comments about how we can add value in the mental health, trauma space.