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Bennett Seeks Education Success Stories

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Washington--Secretary of Education William J. Bennett wants to hear some of education's extraordinary success stories.

Saying he was looking for ways to stem the high-school dropout problem, the Secretary last week issued a call to people "who have been involved in encouraging young children to stay in school and go on to college" to "write me to tell me their story."

Speaking in New York City, Mr. Bennett said he wanted to learn about instances of individuals' "personal commitment to children in situations where educational achievement is particularly difficult."

"I make this request today with the promise that I will collect the letters I receive and report back to the American people what I learn," said Mr. Bennett, appearing at a forum sponsored by The New York Times called "Education and Corporate America: Partners for Profit."

Mr. Bennett noted three cases in which adults interested in students' education have had a remarkable impact.

The best-known example cited by Mr. Bennett involves a New York businessman, Eugene Lang.

Five years ago, at the 6th-grade commencement of the Harlem elementary school that he attended, Mr. Lang promised to give to all 61 students $2,000 toward their college tuition.

He followed up by paying for a counselor to work with the class and by staying in touch with the students and their families.

Now, in an area where the dropout rate is about 40 percent, 54 of the original 61 pupils will be going to college next year.

Mr. Bennett also singled out the less-publicized successes of Ken and Carmen Amos and Kimi Gray, all of Washington, in encouraging students to graduate from high school and go on to college.

Lauding the efforts of such "guardian angels," Mr. Bennett said, "Money alone, no matter what its source or how well-intentioned the reasons for its provision, cannot buy this kind of special interaction between people. No one can deny that financial resources are needed for a college education, but they are not enough.

"You have to want to get there. You need a reason, a motivation. And more often than not, it's a person who supplies it."

--jh

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