Why Education Matters

Education has always been a top priority to me.  That explains why I never second guessed going to college and why I willingly chose to take on two more years in grad school.  It's an investment that I believe is worth it and can make a difference.  Sure, you may be successful in life without a higher ed. degree, but would you be where you are today if you never had an education at all?  Probably not.  
What many of you do not know about me is that during my first year of grad school, I decided to take on a role unrelated to my field and became part of a community service program where I served 900 hours in a local public middle school.  It was a low-income urban environment with a 54% graduation rate.  I had a specific case load of "at risk" students that I worked closely with for the academic year.  What I learned from that experience is that majority of those kids had nobody to turn to at home.  They didn't have a role model, or anyone to help with homework, and many times, not even their own parent to tuck them in bed at night. Many were raised by aunts, uncles, or grandparents, since their own parents were in jail, some even for murder.  For some of the kids, their "role model" at home was an older sibling that lead the block's gang.  Gangs are very common in this city and for many with no one else to turn to for support, it's easy to get sucked in to feel a sense of belonging.

The experience was rewarding in itself just knowing that we, as a school, could provide a place of refuge for these kids.  We were there for them and always willing to listen and support them; something they rarely got outside those doors.  If I could make one positive impact and give at least one child assurance that there is a bright future ahead of them, my job was done.  By teaching these kids at such a young age the importance of education and providing them with necessary resources, they are given the ability to lead the way of their future.  They were taught that life after high school doesn't mean you have to join a gang and college is available to anyone interested.  
Education is the most impactful way to help children escape poverty; this change to their lives is immense. It has a direct impact on well-being, from better health to increased opportunities. It gives children knowledge, skills, and the confidence they need to shape a better future for themselves.  When a child stays in school, he or she not only changes the course of their own life, but that of future generations.

It's a sad reality both close to home and in other countries.  With the help of great foundations like the IKEA Foundation, we can change that low graduation rate and help make a difference.  The IKEA Foundation is the largest global corporate donor to Save the Children and UNICEF, funding projects that help improve children's education.
Every year, the IKEA Foundation donates a portion of proceeds for every soft toy sold in participating IKEA stores in November and December.  For every soft toy and children's book sold between November 9, 2014 and January 3, 2015, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1.00 to children's education through UNICEF and Save the Children.  The donations will help UNICEF and Save the Children train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials in schools, help rebuild schools, provide better water and toilet facilities, and increase school attendance rates.  Last year, the IKEA Foundation raised $13.6 million.  There are five new heroes soft toys this year, and there will be a contest for children to create their own soft toy.  Be on the lookout for these soft toys at an IKEA near you.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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