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Inspire youth to succeed

It is important that children receive a good education and understand how to bring those skills into the workforce to ensure career and financial success. However, many young people do not receive these types of opportunities and are not fully engaged as they should be.

The Wichita public schools’ graduation rate is 75.3 percent – less than the national rate of 80 percent but continuing to rise each year. A low graduation rate creates long-term implications that affect our community’s economic mobility and hinder the success of our youth.

It’s critical that the public, private and nonprofit sectors join forces to connect young people to the resources and skills needed to achieve financial stability and success. That’s why Bank of America and Urban League have partnered for many years to provide young people in Wichita with the tools needed to succeed.

The Urban League of Kansas Education and Youth Empowerment programs, designed to support academic achievement, civic involvement and the physical and emotional development of children and youth, celebrated a 100 percent graduation rate in 2014 for students who participated in the program. Bank of America recently announced that over the next three years, through its nonprofit partnerships and hiring programs, it will invest $40 million nationally in workforce, education and leadership opportunities for about 100,000 teens and young adults.

This past summer, we worked together to create a “Shark Tank” event and trade show, providing youth with entrepreneurship and business skills, as well as valuable presentation skills. Five teams presented their business plans to a panel of Bank of America judges, and were exposed to non-traditional career options in the process.

Each of us can play a role in providing our young people with the tools necessary for empowerment. Mentoring, job shadowing, and other volunteer opportunities give teens valuable perspective and vision about what it means to be employed, how to manage a paycheck and the kinds of job opportunities that exist today.

Together, we can help young people chart a path for success and create a thriving community that champions opportunities for the next generation.

Shawn Lancelot is Bank of America Wichita market president. Mary K. Vaughn is executive director of Urban League of Kansas.

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