“Every 26 seconds, a student in America drops out of school,” says Tony L. Hopson, Sr. “That’s a huge loss for the student, the community, and our country. We can’t afford to fail our children this way.”
Hopson is founder and CEO of Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI), a remarkable Oregon-based nonprofit organization that helps at-risk, inner-city youth realize that they have options in their lives. A high school basketball star who grew up in inner-city Portland, Hopson returned to his neighborhood in 1981 with a degree in psychology and sociology and a teaching certificate. He started a program of summer basketball camps to keep kids off the streets, but it was always about more than athletics.
“We wanted to instill a sense of possibility and responsibility, and give young people opportunities for academic and personal success,” says Hopson.
Today, SEI has become one of the nation’s most respected youth development organizations. Operating in-school and after-school programs in its own neighborhood facility and in nine public schools in Portland, SEI serves more than 3,000 students age 8 to 25 and their families. SEI’s holistic approach focuses on improving student education,
attendance, and behavior, and includes enrichment classes and activities to engage at-risk youth and build their self-esteem and resilience.
“How can you discover a productive path for your life if you aren’t exposed to the opportunities that life offers?” says Hopson. “We provide that exposure and the consistent encouragement students need in order to succeed. We expect all SEI students to become positive, contributing citizens, and most of them do.”
SEI offers compelling evidence that this holistic approach produces amazing results. While more than half of SEI students are from single-parent homes living below the poverty line, in the past five years SEI students have had a 98 to 100 percent high school graduation rate, with 85 percent going on to college or occupational training. A three-year study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked SEI at the top of 12 similar programs around the nation for success in preventing youth violence.
U.S. Bank was a founding corporate sponsor of SEI and continues to be committed to the organization. “This is a program that has produced impressive, measurable results year after year for nearly three decades,” says Malia Wasson, President of U.S. Bank of Oregon and a member of SEI’s Board of Directors. “SEI is helping young people find a productive, meaningful place in the world and building a sense of community that benefits us all.”
For more information about SEI, go to www.selfenhancement.org.
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