It’s the beginning of June which means graduation season is wrapping up in the U.S. We’ve taken graduation to a whole new level here -- there are tons of first and last day of school photos flooding social media and every grade now has a graduation. Last week I even attended a ceremony where my 3-year-old walked across a stage a received a diploma for going to a nursery program two mornings a week.
A big part of graduation ceremonies is the commencement speech. Universities invite people from former presidents to celebrities to give the keynote address, and highlights tend to circulate online. One of those stories that received a lot of attention recently is about Robert Smith, a billionaire businessman and philanthropist who gave the commencement speech at Morehouse college. In his speech, he forgave the debt of the entire graduating class of 400 students - an estimated 40 million dollars. The gift averages out to $100,000 per student and has lifted a huge burden off of students who were starting their careers heavily indebted.
While this is great news for those students, it made me think about my own education, the impact of a $1 and our students at Impact Network. Unlike our students in Zambia, I always took going to school as a given. I’m not sure I would have had the commitment to walk up to 3 hours each way to get to school as some of our students do, but I never had to find that out. Whether I would go to university was not ever a question; the question was around which university I would enroll in. I sometimes take for granted that my 3-year-old has close to a dozen different schooling options and the decisions I have to make are between Montessori, dual language, traditional programs or outdoor-based schools. These are things that most people in the world do not have access to – early childhood education, university and a schooling options in general.
Working in Zambia has made me realize the enormous impact you can make with a small amount of money and it is one of the reasons I love the work that we do – not everyone has 40 million dollars to donate after all. We can provide a quality education to students for just $5 a month. This education will change the future of many of our students lives just as the gift from Robert will have a great impact on many of the students from the 2019 graduating class. The students of Morehouse's graduating class have been encouraged to pay it forward. I look forward to hearing more about their stories in the future.