“We have to build places of hope rather than places of despair. The public school system here is built to contain kids, not educate them. If you build prisons, you create prisoners.” – Bill Strickland.
“The sand in the hourglass flows only one way. Don’t waste precious time chasing someone else’s definition of success. Live your life with purpose now. Look for the things that inspire you, trouble you, make you feel most alive, and trust in those things to shape your future. They will give you all your heart could ever wish for.” – Bill Strickland.
Bill Strickland passionately adheres to the philosophy that when poor and disadvantaged children underperform at school it is because they have internalized the low expectations society has for them and that, despite the stress and problems created by their impoverished conditions, can flourish in an environment that ‘provides them with order, purpose, opportunity, and beauty’ and shows them trust and respect.
Driven by this firmly held philosophy, Strickland created the Bidwell Manchester Center which, in his book, ‘Make the Impossible Possible. One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary’ he compares and contrasts with the nearby Oliver High School:
At the Oliver High school, there are security guards who search the students’ bags, metal detectors, and iron bars on the windows.
As a result of this environment, with all it implies about the students’ characters, Strickland argues, the students ‘live up to’ the low expectations their school seems to have of them creating problems such as vandalism, disrespect between students, disrespect for teachers, anger, fear of violence, poor attendance, a high dropout rate, resistance to learning and general chaos.
In stark contrast to this, at Manchester Bidwell, students are shown trust and respect. There are no bag checks or searches by security guards and no security cameras. Furthermore, the students are given gourmet lunches (cooked by students enrolled in the culinary program) and surrounded by high-quality art.
Award-winning Bidwell Manchester offers at-risk youth after-school classes in various subjects including Culinary Arts, Horticulture Technology, and Pharmacy Technician Training.
All its programs are free of charge and have proven very highly effective. The classes have turned countless young people’s lives around, often in very short periods of time.
Many of those who attend were written off by Oliver High as beyond redemption or are young people very similar to them, though there has never been any vandalism, violence, thefts, or any other reason to involve the police, despite the fact the surrounding area (in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA) has an extremely high crime rate.
Over 90% of the young people who attend Bidwell Manchester gain a high school diploma and over 85% enroll in higher education.
Bidwell Manchester also provides job training for disadvantaged adults and this training has proved similarly successful.
Learn more about Bill Strickland and his vision to transform the lives of poverty-stricken, disadvantaged, at-risk youth by clicking on the links provided below:
- Ted Talk: Rebuilding a neighborhood with beauty, dignity, hope.
- Make The Impossible Possible. One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve The Extraordinary.
Strickland, Bill. Make the Impossible Possible. One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary. Broadway Books, 2009 ISBN 0385520557, 9780385520553
Stuart, Toby & Hardymon, G. & Heskett, James & Leamon, Ann. (2010). Manchester Bidwell Corporation: The Replication Question.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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