This is a message for kids in Charlotte-Mecklenburg who are troubled and want to turn their lives around: This community believes in you and has people who are willing to step forward and support you.
Case in point: A successful Urban League youth program dumped by the feds lives on – for now – thanks to a surprise $100,000 donation.
That's the kind of leadership that makes a difference in a community. In this case it buys time for a program that does worthy, urgent work – and does it well – to persuade Congress to give it a second look.
Leon Levine and The Levine Foundation gave $100,000 to help save Charlotte's Urban Youth Empowerment Program, which has an 80 percent record of success at getting dropouts and juvenile offenders back on track. The program would have shut down last week without that assistance because Washington shifted its funding into a federal program aiding juvenile offenders, young parents and former prisoners.
Those are deserving needs, but they should not be addressed at the expense of a proven, locally run program with an excellent record. The Urban League program targets an urgent, persistent problem – and does so in a way that's highly effective. This is the kind of work that needs to be done and the kind nobody seems to know how to do well. Charlotte is fortunate Mr. Levine recognized that. His generosity offers a direct challenge to others in this community.
Step two is for Congress to revisit the money issue next year. Charlotte can play a role in persuading lawmakers to do so. The program here speaks for its self: 80 percent of those in it have jobs, degrees and have stayed out of trouble.
This community's commitment to such work also speaks for itself: Having people who can and will invest $100,000 of their own money makes an emphatic statement.
Most important, however, is the statement it makes to kids who want and need help. There are people here, it says, willing to put down money on your chances for success.