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 Home > News & Policies > February 2005

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 15, 2005

Mrs. Bush's Remarks on Helping America's Youth Initiative Community College National Legislative Summit
JW Marriott Grand Ballroom
Washington, D.C.

9:30 A.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you all. Thank you, George, for your leadership as Chairman of the Community College of Trustees. And a special thanks to Dr. Henry Shannon and Dr. Ray Taylor and Dr. George Boggs for gathering this impressive group of educators and community leaders from around our country. I'm really excited to be here with you and I want to thank all of you again for your work that you've already done with me on early childhood education.

That work I know of yours continues in each one of your community colleges, and the work you've done helping teachers get certified -- and that's one of things I want to talk to you about today and encourage you to do more work in that area.

I have had a wonderful time visiting the community colleges around the country. I gave the commencement address at Miami Dade last year -- (applause) -- and one of the great things about community colleges and that one in particular was during the procession of graduates that 80 flags from 80 countries around the world were carried in to represent the nationalities of the graduates. And that's really unbelievable. You're not just educating Americans, you're educating the world in community colleges. So thank you all for doing that. (Applause.)

I also want to commend the trustee for volunteering to serve on the governing boards of your local community colleges -- and I know that's not an easy job. But it's a very, very important job. And President Bush and I also appreciate the commitment of all of our community college presidents. And I've met a lot of community college presidents over the last four years. You contribute to the vitality of our education system, and you really have an education system that welcomes all and provides opportunity for so many. From students, to workers to immigrants and retirees, your schools bridge the gap between people's lives as they are and their lives as they want them to be.

President Bush is committed to helping community colleges remain strong and he wants to make sure that all students have the foundation for learning and the skills they need to succeed. In his State of the Union address the President announced a new initiative, to reach out to young people, and especially to young men who are trapped in gangs. Encouraging young people to see beyond a world of hopelessness is part of a national effort to help all children reach their full potential.

The President's goals for education reform have always been to help our students who are most at risk. The No Child Left Behind Act is making an incredible difference in the lives of our youngest children. With accountability, high standards and an increased focus on reading, we're closing the achievement gap in our public elementary schools.

Now we must extend these reforms to America's high schools. Many of those who graduate from high school go on to a community college, and as each of you know, community colleges are doing a lot of remedial education for these high school graduates. As a mother, a former school teacher, myself, and a school librarian, I've always cared about the education of children. Last year, I began visiting middle schools and high schools that are using the new research-based curriculum to bring middle and high school students up to grade level in reading. And of course, a majority of students in these remedial and early intervention classes in reading are boys.

The statistics on boys are particularly alarming. Boys begin to fall behind girls in elementary school, in fact, nearly 70 percent of students in special education classes are boys. In high school, the boys fall even further behind and more girls go on to college than boys. Today, women earn an average of 57 percent of all bachelors degrees and 58 percent of all masters degrees in the United States. Boys are more likely than girls to commit crimes and to be a victim of violent crime. The Department of Justice estimates that more than 90 percent of gang members in large cities are boys. And by the age 18, boys are 17 times more likely than girls to be in jail or prison.

I've been traveling across the country to learn more about the challenges young people face and I'm highlighting effective prevention and intervention programs so that parents and community leaders can learn about what works. Last week, I visited an elementary school in Baltimore that's working to promote academic success in their youngest students. Through the Good Behavior Game, 1st graders learn how to be students. The children are divided into teams and given rules to follow, very simple rules. And if a student talks out, the entire team receives a check for bad behavior. Dr. Shep Kellams from the AIR, the American Institute of Research in Baltimore, devised the game based on the theory that children had to be taught how to be good students, that it's not intuitive. He studied the program's effectiveness for the last 20 years and the results are profound.

Students are less likely -- less aggressive and disruptive, and remarkably, 86 percent of the children who were in the 1st grade Good Behavior Game graduated from high school, compared to just 19 percent of their peers. The Good Behavior Game is a very inexpensive curriculum that schools can adopt easily in their 1st grade.

In northeast Philadelphia, I visited a Boys and Girls Club that had a Passport to Manhood Passport to Manhood program, and a lot of Boys and Girls Clubs around the country and overseas on our military bases have these Passport to Manhood classes. Here, boys 8 -- ages 8 to 16 meet to talk about how they can build successful lives so they can become successful young men. Boys talk with their leader, a young man, about the characteristics that men should have, and the character traits that they want to have. They talked about respect for themselves and respect for other people, and they even talked about love. How many -- how often have you heard a little group of boys 8 to 16 talk about love? Not very often, I can assure you.

By focusing on character development, Boys and Girls Clubs are helping young people across the country. And research shows that in the neighborhood where there is a Boys and Girls Club, there's generally a reduction in vandalism, drug trafficking and youth crime.

And last Thursday, I visited a terrific program in Detroit called Think Detroit. This program connects children with a team and a coach who loves them. Think Detroit coaches use positive character development to teach children life lessons through sports. Today in Detroit, more than 650 coaches volunteer their time to mentor thousands of young people across the city.

Many young people today are growing up with a single parent in a single parent home. And too many boys are growing up without fathers. Coaches and male teachers make great, great role models for boys. We must encourage more men and more minorities to become teachers.

Community colleges already play such an important role in teacher education. Many of your schools offer alternative teacher certification and mentoring to minority teachers. But over the next decade, we'll need more than two million new teachers in our nation's public schools. We especially need teachers with diverse academic backgrounds to teach in urban public schools, where more than 700,000 teachers are needed right now.

I encourage all community colleges to look for ways to expand and diversify our teaching force. Talk to state officials and to community leaders about new ideas for teacher recruitment and retainment. Of the millions of students enrolled in community colleges, I know there are thousands of potential great teachers.

When young people get to high school, you can help them see that higher education doesn't have to be just a dream, but it can be a reality. Many young people who struggle in school believe that dropping out is their only option. The poverty rate in households headed by a high school dropout is ten times higher than in a high school [sic] headed by a college graduate. We know that young people with advanced education are less likely to engage in violence and drugs.

In his 2006 budget, President Bush is providing $125 million to promote dual-enrollment programs, so that high school students can take college level courses and receive both high school and post-secondary credit. This new initiative would provide incentives to states so that high school students, particularly low-income and minority high school students, have a greater chance to receive a college education. (Applause.)

Community colleges, and I know this will be really difficult, but you also can reach out to young people who are transitioning out of gangs and prison and back into society. These young people face many social prejudices as they try to start over. From the very beginning, they often feel defeated and hopeless. Many return to the lives they once knew. Community college can be a beacon for these young people. I encourage you to form partnerships and to develop innovative programs that address their needs. If these young people can learn valuable skills and find good jobs, they'll have a much better chance of being able to succeed in life.

We want all children to grow up healthy and safe. As parents and educators, we have a personal interest in seeing our young people succeed. And as Americans, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that all children are prepared for school and for life.

Community colleges have changed the paradigm of higher education in America. By making education accessible to all, you're building a nation of learners. Your innovation benefits all of us, and your dedication can help prepare a new generation of learners and leaders.

After my visit to Think Detroit, a newspaper reporter interviewed one of the little boys I met with. The reporter asked him what he thought of my visit, and I was moved when I read that he simply said, "I wish she could stay here."

Children want us in their lives. They need us in their lives. And as I've learned from the remarkable men and women I've met around our country, each of us has the power to make the difference in the life of a child. Together, we can work towards a day where every child has a caring adult to talk to and to learn from. And as we work toward that day, we will build a better world for our children and grandchildren.

Thank you all very, very much. Thank you for what you do for our country. Thank you so much. Thank you all. (Applause.)

END 9:40 A.M. EST

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