By Maria Saporta
One of former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s great passions has been working with high school seniors to help them take that “next step” in their lives — be it college or career training.
Franklin started the “Next Step” program, which has been renamed the Mayor’s Youth Program, in 2005.
That year, she fulfilled a pledge to personally meet with every senior in the Atlanta Public Schools to help them fill out college applications, seek scholarship and academic grants, determine whatever other needs they might have, such as helping some students buy a computer.
Now out of office for more than a month, Franklin’s passion for the program she founded continues.
In an email to friends sent late Friday evening Franklin thank them for their “investment of encouragement and funding for the Mayor’s Youth Program,” which is part of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency.
“This year over 700 students are matriculating at over 100 colleges universities and technical schools across the country,” Franklin wrote.
And then she shared a “recent exchange I’ve had with one of the hundreds of Atlanta students who have benefitted.”
The exchange was with Bernard Saunders, now a senior at Morehouse College.
Here is the thank you email Saunders sent Franklin this week:
Hello, I am emailing you to thank you for your help as I matriculate through college. The Next Step program has changed and saved my life. I am now a senior at Morehouse College and only have five classes left until I graduate. My major is Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. I really appreciate what you have done for me. You have not only helped me by assisting me as I matriculate through college, you have helped my community because I now mentor in the Big Brother/Big Sister program. I also mentor kids at my former middle school and high school. The Next Step program has helped me to attain top ten interviews. It all started with the internship you supplied me with at IBM. I just want you to know that this program has helped me tremendously and by helping me that also helps my family. I am the youngest in my immediate family and the first to graduate high school and go to college. I am now interviewing with top investment banks because of the program. I am forever grateful and I will forever be in debt to the program. My favorite quote is “One Education ends the poverty lines in a family forever”, and by helping me attain a post-secondary degree I will be able to hopefully end the struggles in my family. If there is anything I can do to help the program or assist you in any way please feel free to let me know. Thank you again.
Bernard J. Saunders
“The Roots of Education are Bitter but the Fruits are Sweet”
In response, Franklin wrote back: “Bernard, you have made my day. It is terrific that you are doing well and doing good.”