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America's Promise celebrates its effort to help kids

One year ago, a national organization was formed to help kids who are struggling _ with poverty, broken families, drugs, bad schools and more.

The group called itself America's Promise, a name that showed faith in children and the nation's hope for a better future.

It hired as its leader retired General Colin Powell, who was very popular as head of the country?s armed forces during the Gulf War.

It vowed that by the year 2000 help would be provided to 2-million kids.

Last week, the group _ fully called America's Promise: The Alliance for Youth _ celebrated its first birthday. And General Powell spoke to mayors attending a national conference in Chicago about what has been done?and what remains to be done?in this historic save-the-kids drive.

Struggling less?

Powell told the mayors that the "deadly serious effort" to reach America's disadvantaged children is gaining support and making progress.

Big corporations have given big money, he said, and youth organizations are stepping up their efforts. He praised the mayors for finding ways to make city governments reach out and lend a hand.

But he could not say yet whether kids are struggling any less as a result of these efforts. One year is too soon to tell, he said; the real results may not be known for 10 years.

America's Promise was formed in response to the Presidents' Summit on America's Future, which got a lot of publicity when it was held in Philadelphia last spring.

At that event, President Bill Clinton and three ex-Presidents _ GeorgeBush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford _ together asked people to volunteer their time and money to make life better for children.

High goals were set for America's Promise: to provide all kids with an ongoing relationship with a caring adult, safe activities during after-school hours, quality health care and training in job skills.

The group aims to help struggling kids succeed, even in small ways, so they can see how achieving success will lead to more and more successes in life.

It also aims to show kids that being an American means not only getting the help you need, but also giving help to others. So it challenges kids to serve their communities.

Waiting for results

With such big goals for the whole country, Powell said, it is hard to measure how much has been achieved so far, how many kids have been helped.

But the effort is clearly drawing the kind of support it will need to be successful, he said. Nearly 350 individuals, corporations and non-profit groups have given or promised money.

And the Boys and Girls Clubs of America have already begun to fulfill their promise to serve half a million more kids in five years.

Powell said the real test is "10 years from now ... is the drug ratestarting to go down? Is crime and violence dropping among our young people? ... Are we starting to see a better America?"

But some leaders of groups that serve young people have said 10 years is too long to wait.


1. America's Promise got a lot of favorable attention when it was started. But after a year, people are starting to ask for results. As a class, brainstorm a list of questions you would want answered if you were going to assess the effort?s success at helping kids. Next to each question, write out what the answer would tell you about the success of America's Promise.

2. Once people learn how to succeed, they succeed over and over again. Look through the newspaper to find different ways people can succeed. For each kind of success, write how it can lead to another success. Succeeding in a sport, for example, could lead to success in what other areas? Stretch your thinking!

3. Look through today's newspaper for a story or photo involving children. Write down what problems or issues need to be addressed to help these children. Then write a possible solution to the problem.

4. One reason to volunteer is that it teaches skills needed for working in a job. Look through the Help Wanted ads in the newspaper. Pick a job and write three skills required for it that could be gained from volunteering.