By Ron Scherer. Ron Scherer is a writer of The Christian Science Monitor.
The Christian Science Monitor
MIRIAM MUNIZ used to cut classes. Kimberly Stoeckle and Adlai Allen just didn't go to school.
But last November the three teenagers started to get more personalized counseling and extra tutoring. Their parents made certain they didn't just sit around the house watching television. Now, Miriam is working on her resume and dreams of becoming an interpreter at the United Nations; Kimberly is hoping to become a beautician; and Adlai, who wants to become a professional athlete, is attending classes.
What's making the difference for these teens? Corporate involvement.
Last November, Burger King Corporation contributed $65,000 to set up a "Burger King Academy" at William Penn High School here to reach teens who were at risk of dropping out. The teens, their parents, and the academy all signed contracts detailing what they agreed to accomplish.
After the first year, the local Burger King franchisee agreed to raise the money to keep the program going. The funds go toward such purposes as computer programs, counseling, tutors, and extra teachers.
Such corporate involvement in education is growing. "We are seeing more and more companies wanting to become directly involved in the schools," says Sean Milliken, special assistant to the vice president of program development at Cities in Schools Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that set up the program used by Burger King.
In its annual survey of corporations, the Council for Aid to Education in New York estimates that United States corporations gave all educational institutions a total of $2.43 billion in 1991, up 4 percent from the previous year. While most of that funding went to higher education, the 410 companies that answered the survey said they gave about $316 million to elementary and secondary schools. Those numbers do not reflect the value of mentoring, tutoring, or the use of facilities provided by companies.
For example, Proctor & Gamble has become deeply involved in federal, state, and local educational strategy. Bob Wehling, vice president for public affairs, estimates that he spends 20 hours a week on education, and John Pepper, the consumer giant's president, spends 10 hours a week.
"The more people who are involved in-depth, including business people, the sooner we will solve the problem," says Mr. Wehling, who serves on an educational task force interacting with each of the 50 states.
The corporate effort is partly altruistic. But increasingly the effort is also for corporate self-preservation. "A company committed to living in one city cannot stand a city that is filled with dangerous young people," says Paul Hill, a senior social scientist at the RAND Corporation in Washington, D.C. He says corporations bring an atmosphere of "crisis and discontent," which causes cities to look more closely at their educational failures.
As some corporations are finding, however, making a difference in education can be as difficult as solving tough business problems. For years, the business community has tried to help schools with trips to the zoo or the purchase of video equipment. …