Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Above&Beyond Day 1: The Mystery of the Missing Children

The clock showed 11:00 AM. The back conference room of the Ferguson Library was ready to receive parents. The outdoor activity area was set to welcome children via icebreaker. Mr. G (apparently at the Education Exchange Corps, we all go by an initial when we are teaching) sat at the front of the library with stacks of registration papers at the ready. We had construction paper and folders and pens and snacks and juice and plans.

But no kids.

No parents coming in to ask questions. No one lined up on the sidewalk or in the parking lot waiting. No one on their way to the program.

We still gave our volunteers an orientation. We talked about the program and protocols, history and purposes, what we hoped they'd be doing that day.

But still no kids.

The minutes passed by. I checked in on Mr. G at 11:30 to find that, although no kids had arrived, their spirit somehow made it onto the back of some of the registration forms.

I spoke with the trickle of kids who were coming in and out of the library, and my conversations were initially accompanied by stern looks from parents. But when I explained the program we were running, the parents were thrilled. Excited parents, but no children? The Mystery of the Missing Children was solved! The word had not gotten out.

So we printed a bunch of fliers and took to the streets of Ferguson. We knocked on doors. That didn't work too well.

We went into businesses. That worked better.

We stopped kids on the street. That was great. I spoke with one high school freshman who was actually on his way to the library. He took several fliers and plans to come with his friends next week. He writes poetry in his head, he told me, and he wants to go to college to be a writer.

We stopped at a custard shop. That was FANTASTIC! There were two kids hanging out in a tree outside, making fun comments to those passing by. I gave them fliers too. One of them wants to be a lawyer because "they make lots of money." His backup plan is to become an engineer.

We ended the day where we started, at the library, still without kids. But the mystery was solved, and the culprit - lack of awareness - was laid to rest. And the custard was so good!

Until next week.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Volunteer with Kids in Ferguson and Give Every Child a Chance

Every child deserves an opportunity. On Saturday, September 27, the Above&Beyond college readiness program will make its debut at the Ferguson Library. The program is open to children ages 10 and up served by the Ferguson-Florissant School District and is being offered by the Education Exchange Corps at no charge. 

Above&Beyond will take on kids’ perceptions of college, reveal the resources available for college applicants, and assist kids throughout the application and preparation process. It’s never too late to get kids thinking about college, and we will also provide guidance for younger students so that they can start thinking about their futures. 

This is a great opportunity for St. Louis to give every child a chance. We are looking for volunteers who are willing to serve as mentors for children, facilitating discussions during our Saturday programs and following up with their kids during the school year. We have designed the program to get as many qualified volunteers involved as possible. Even if you can only commit a couple of hours on a weekend, we will find a way for you to help the St. Louis community. 

When: Saturday, September 27, 2014, 11:00AM – 3:00PM with volunteer training starting at 10:30 AM

Where: Ferguson Municipal Public Library, 35 N. Florissant Rd.

How: To volunteer, email or 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Above&Beyond College Readiness Program Starts Saturday, September 27 in Ferguson

The Education Exchange Corps will debut its college readiness program in Ferguson on Saturday, September 27, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The program, called Above&Beyond, will engage kids in the college process, from discovering personal interests to honing communication skills to working on applications and test preparation. We will be at the Ferguson Library for at least two Saturdays in a row.

Volunteers are welcome to come for however long they can. Most importantly, we will need volunteers willing to listen to kids and tell the kids about their own experiences. But if you have special experience in ACT or SAT preparation, scholarship application, academic tutoring, or college admissions, we would love to work with you to design some of our programming. We are also looking for professionals to talk about their careers and the paths they took to get there. We would be happy to partner with you or your business to get kids interested in the many different jobs out there.

To volunteer or donate to the program, please email

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Monday, September 15, 2014

College Readiness Program Coming to Ferguson

Kids were everywhere. Several 5-year-olds were chatting away while coloring at their tables on one side of a partition, many younger kids were sitting on a mat nearby doing some sort of loud reading activity, a line of second-graders marched right in front of me on the way either to the library book stacks or to the large-ish back room where a gazillion older kids and volunteers excitedly embraced the controlled chaos that was the Ferguson Library program.

In the midst of it all, as Governor Nixon came through and Captain Ron Johnson visited and a number of other celebrities shared a moment with the kids, an older gray-haired gentleman sauntered up to me as I was just dropping off a new kid to her group. "Here," he said. I expected to be given another kid to take to her class, or maybe another pack of donated food to place by the lunches. Instead, in this man's hand, was a gray t-shirt, emblazoned on the front with the phrase, "I [heart] Ferg."

The surprise knocked me out of my auto-logistics mode. Amongst all the excitement and attractive insanity of holding a makeshift school at a local library, this man's face was totally normal. I had met the man a few hours earlier in the morning when I was greeting kids and parents into the library. He asked me if I had gotten a Ferguson shirt yet. I said no. He disappeared. And now here he was. All he wanted to do was give me a shirt. Sometimes, the most memorable thank-yous don't ever make use of those two words.

I wrote about the great work the St. Louis community did in Ferguson at the library a few weeks ago (a lot, actually: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). We were fortunate and honored to be able to help.

But since the program ended, something has kept drawing me back. Something about that library, about the kids, about the volunteers, about the whole atmosphere was enchanting.

So we're coming back.

We will be working with the library, the school district, and whomever else wants to get involved to provide college readiness programming for kids and parents on Saturdays. We'll talk about kids' current perceptions of college, their dreams, and what they can do today to make sure they have options when they graduate from high school. We'll provide help with standardized testing preparation. And, as oft happens with such programs, we'll give kids another level of support: mentors to talk to as they go through the academic year and beyond.

Eventually, we plan to provide these college readiness workshops at multiple locations on the weekends, rotating from one site to the next to reach even more kids. Based on the six plus years I've been working with underserved kids in St. Louis, I can tell you that this kind of programming is desperately needed.

We're excited to start in Ferguson.

Over the past several weeks, many folks in St. Louis and around the country have been taking part in tough conversations. Some people feel deeply passionate about what Ferguson so starkly demonstrated to the world. Others don't know how to feel. Some believe that they don't have a right or a true ability to feel because, in part, they don't know how to contribute.

But, no matter how you feel, there are at least a few things most of us can agree with. One of those things is that kids today should have a real shot at charting their own futures, should have the support they need to have real opportunity. And you can give them that.

You don't need to be good at math or the ACT to help a kid. All you really have to do is listen. Too many kids today grow up thinking that their society does not value them and is not willing to care about them. You can change that.

You can change how a kid thinks about herself just by being there, by paying attention to her and the stories she wants to tell, by answering questions about what being an adult is like, what being in high school was like for you. This is what our kids need from you.

We've always looked for ways to get as many qualified volunteers involved in kids' educations as possible. That's why we are holding these workshops on the weekend. If you can, we're asking for just a little bit of your time. And that little bit will make a world of difference.

Years ago, when I was young and impressionable, I had a mentor tell me, "Just go change the world." He said it as an order, as matter-of-factly as a parent telling you to wash the dishes or take out the trash. No matter what life has thrown me, I keep finding ways to work with kids because I believe it is the best way to change the world. And maybe I'm paying my many mentors' service forward.

By working with kids, we can escape the politics that have plagued the adult world. Kids bring out the best in adults, and they bring adults who never knew each other before together under a common banner. I've seen volunteers make lasting friendships with those they serve and with those they serve with. These programs became a magical world of their own, generating experiences that make everyone involved better.

St. Louis, you want a way to heal the fissures that have torn our city apart? Come join us. Email me at

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps