June 19, 2015
Mr. David Brooks
The New York Times
620 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Dear Mr. Brooks:
As an organization devoted to helping young people envision and achieve success as adults, we read with interest your recent column entitled “How Adulthood Happens.” It offers reassuring wisdom to both young adults and their parents about how the struggles of young adulthood are developmentally normal and part of the road to a successful adulthood. Unfortunately, your description of the generation entering adulthood today presumes the availability of enormous advantages and privileges that are not readily available to many young people, including most of the over one thousand children and youth we are fortunate to serve at Graham Windham. As a result, your message omits the reality of a much different, and often heroic, coming of age experience of young adults who do not have these advantages, and thus are subject to a much smaller margin of error in their “Odyssey Years” with much harsher consequences for failure. The formidable challenges facing many young people, especially those whose families contend daily with the stress of poverty and instability, as they seek a successful, stable adulthood are real. Consider that nationally youth who have been system-involved as children are obtaining a 2 or 4 year college degree by the age of 25 at a rate less than 10 percent. Knowing our youth well, we are certain this is not an issue of inherent capacity. The root cause is a collective failure to provide them with the effective supports, expectations and opportunities during their young adulthood that are available to the young adults you describe in your column. Our young people want no one’s pity; they simply want an honest shot and adults who will support them and stick with them through the inevitable ups and downs. They deserve to be heard and to be an acknowledged part of their generation.
We would love you to get to meet them. Over the last few years, we’ve launched a program, called Graham SLAM, to coach our young people, many of whom find themselves well behind academically due to circumstances out of their control, until they are launched in a career by the age of 25. Our approach, which engages young adults and their families, is showing auspicious results in significantly improving rates of high school graduation, college enrollment and college persistence. They are assets to their families, communities and country. We’re inspired by the courage with which our kids face these years, and are certain you would be as well. We look forward to hearing from you.
Jess Dannhauser, President and CEO
Georgia Wall, Chairman of the Board of Directors