President Leo M. Lambert calls for a community focus on children
Elon's president was the featured speaker at the 22nd annual banquet of Burlington's Positive Attitude Youth Center.
Elon University President Leo M. Lambert says leaders from throughout the Alamance County area should commit their energies to focus on the priority of educating children, with an emphasis on early childhood and elementary grades.
Lambert made his remarks during an address at the annual fundraising banquet for the Positive Attitude Youth Center, a faith-based nonprofit organization that works with at-risk children and young adults to help them mature physically, spiritually and emotionally. The center, founded in 1995 in Burlington, operates after-school programs, tutoring, day schools, summer programs and recreational opportunities. Parents are also able to attend life skill classes throughout the year.
Several Elon students volunteer to work at the center, including Alicia Paul, who serves as the LINCS (Leaders in Collaborative Service) coordinator for the center; and Phoenix football quarterback Connor Christiansen, who spoke at the banquet about the relationships he has formed with the children.
Lambert praised the center's founders, Pastor Kerry Richmond and his wife, Eunice Richmond, for their work. "What Elon and the Positive Attitude Youth Center are trying to do through our programs is to create a pipeline from cradle to college," Lambert said. "We have too many leaks in our pipeline today and the human and social costs of losing children from our educational system are staggering. It is going to take many forms of leadership to stop these leaks, including elected officials, our school board, business leaders, churches and anyone who understands how much an educated populace is key to a prosperous economic future and a free society. Most of all, it demands community leadership that insists a focus on children must be our most important priority."
Lambert pointed out that 25 percent of children in North Carolina live in poverty, exacting a huge cost to society. "It makes absolutely no sense, either morally or economically," Lambert said. "All children are equal in the eyes of God. And the social costs of children not succeeding are staggering. Dropouts are more than twice as likely to live in poverty according to the Department of Education.
"When will we ever learn that investment in young children—from birth to third grade in particular—is the most productive use of resources we can make as a society? Our society's failure to address this most basic issue will lead us to a much less bright future, because our future prosperity depends on every child having a chance to flourish."
Lambert said he is proud of Elon University programs that benefit children in Alamance County, citing the Elon Academy, a college access and success program for academically promising high school students; and the "It Takes a Village" project, a literacy programs for youngsters that matches Elon students, faculty and staff with children and their families.
Elon is also launching the Kenan Community Impact Fellowship on June 1. Four Kenan Fellows will work directly with families of preschool children in the ABSS system to empower parents to help prepare their four-year-old children for kindergarten. The Fellows will work closely with principals at Newlin, Eastlawn, Haw River and Andrews elementary schools, lead teams of student volunteers to work in the program, conduct home visits, and partner with parents to help them get their kids ready for kindergarten. "We hope this will be life changing work," Lambert said.