We greet all students with the same basic recipe for success: high standards, stiff challenges, a chance to develop unexplored talents, and a message that many of them haven’t heard before–that no matter how difficult the circumstances of their lives may be, no matter how many bad assumptions they’ve made about their chances in life, no matter how well they’ve been taught to rein in their dreams and narrow their aspirations, they have the right, and the potential, to expect to live rich and satisfying lives.
-Bill Strickland (2009), Social Entrepreneur
At 16, Bill Strickland, now sixty, had an epiphany. The sun shone through a large window at his Pittsburgh inner city high school on a man in flow, sculpting a clump of clay. Strickland had never seen someone so engrossed in life and was drawn towards the light. He introduced himself to that sculptor and gained a mentor for life. With his mentor's guidance, the young Strickland gained a new, positive view of life and saw the world open before him. Four decades later, Strickland is deeply engaged in changing lives, opening up the world for other inner-city people, through social entrepreneurship. He runs the Manchester Bidwell Corporation and the Manchester Craftsman's Guild, both educational facilities based in Pittsburgh to serve mainly minority, poverty-ridden, youths and adults. These facilities are truly inspiring. They are well designed, both architecturally and educationally, to fill each student with hope and provide them the opportunity to work hard and learn much. Students may enroll in art and music classes taught by world class visiting artists. They may learn gourmet cooking skills or agricultural techniques. The list of offerings is impressive, but I think my favorite ideal of Strickland's schools is the life-changing personal attention and respect each student receives. The young people of Pittsburgh are extremely fortunate to have such an educational center only a free bus-ride away.
Bill Strickland's big idea is to expand his model to over 200 cities around the world. This is an exciting idea worth supporting.
To watch Bill Strickland's big idea TED Conference presentation, click on Bill Strickland's big idea . Enjoy and be inspired.