A National Center for Arts and Technology could appear in Saginaw if others help Bill Strickland in his efforts toward making a positive social change.
Bill Strickland said that to keep the country running, it is his lifetime goal to open 200 of these centers across the world, 100 in the U.S. and 100 internationally.
Five of these currently exist, including one in Grand Rapids.
He spoke about this and his efforts in creating them last week.
Strickland is president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corp. (MBC) and was recently selected by President Barack Obama to join the White House Council for Community Solutions.
“This country is very sick,” Strickland said.
He said that statistics show that barely half of black students graduate.
“If this were SVSU, the college wouldn’t be in business very long,” he said.
Strickland grew up in the high-crime-rate town of Pittsburgh, the site of the MBC’s first center.
This center that Strickland worked to open invested more money than a typical educational center.
He has invested $1 million in the structuring of a kitchen for students to become gourmet chefs.
This schooling is available for high-risk individuals that may have otherwise not attended post-secondary schooling by putting them on a path of opportunity.
“I’ve had people in my program with a high school degree that couldn’t read,” Strickland said.
He takes these students and places them in these structured environments because, according to him, it fosters a higher amount of learning.
“Over the summer, I spoke with people of Saginaw and how the school systems fail students,” said Veronica Kirk, a political science sophomore.
Strickland said that his schools are structured differently because if someone builds a prison, people are going to act like they’re in a prison.
Art is a key component in the program.
“Arts change the way people think,” Strickland said.
Students feel the University atmosphere agrees with Strickland’s idea.
“It’s so amazing that SVSU is so art and music oriented,” said Alexandra Lind, an international studies freshman.
Through MBC’s program, Strickland said he has had classes where 100 percent of the students received a job within their studied career.
“My major gets put down, but he gives me hope that I can do something and make a difference,” Lind said.
The MBC center in Grand Rapids has helped to cut drop out rates by 5 percent.
Strickland emphasized that although placed in high-crime neighborhoods, the centers have had zero incidents of violence or thefts since their openings.
Other cities such as Austin, Buffalo, Vancouver and Halifax are in the process of raising funds for a center.
“I think it’ll give people the skills to flourish,” Kirk said.