Published Online: September 2, 2014

Business leaders help Memphis high school seniors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Business leaders in Memphis are using their experience as executives to help high school students get into college.

The Commercial Appeal reports ( ) that 80 upper-level business managers walked into high schools Thursday as part of the SUCCESS High School Action Initiative.

Each business leader, including Gina Maiden, director of business and technology solutions at FedEx Corp., and Elizabeth Blondis, head of catering and shipping at Central BBQ, is paying $3,900 for Leadership Memphis's yearlong executive-level immersion in problem-solving and community organizing.

The goal is for 400 Memphis executives to have helped get 7,000 seniors from Melrose, East, Carver, Fairley, Hamilton, Kirby and Trezevant high schools into college by spring 2017.

The program is not about teaching classes to students, coordinator Jackie Oselen told the executives on Wednesday.

"But one of the things we have discovered is that 80 percent are more likely to graduate and continue to college if they have someone they can turn to," she said.

Many seniors in the eight schools stand to be the first in their families to go to college. It means their families have little experience filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, 40 pages of family financial data colleges use to determine aid.

"Lots of these kids don't have support or guidance outside school," Oselen said.

On Thursday, 10 executives filed into Melrose High School and headed to the library. The team's challenge is to use its collective knowledge to smooth the path to get into college.

Three people are already in charge of increasing the number of families completing the FAFSA. Michael Saine, head of the Orange Mound Community Development Corp., is team leader. Felecia Bean-Barnes, who owns Bean & Price Contractors, is in charge of getting email or cell numbers for every senior and starting a conversation that will continue for the next 24 months.

Starting in September, each team will also lead a monthly club in its school. According to the "administrative version" of the schedule, each session will reflect a leadership quality.

"We are going to learn that you can educate outside the traditional education system," said John Livingston, chief operating officer of Mid-South Food Bank. "We'll bring a more applied aspect."


Information from: The Commercial Appeal,

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