- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2001

The NAACP is partnering with the People for the American Way (PFAW) Foundation to kick off a $100 million national public service ad campaign aimed at encouraging black and Hispanic parents to become more involved in their children's education.
Citing surveys that show a widening achievement gap between minority children and their white counterparts, and suggesting overemphasis on the importance of athletic skill over academic attainment, the groups will mount a three-year campaign called "Success in School Equals Success in Life."
"This campaign is not to condemn, but to remind parents that you really can find a way to be involved in your child's life," said NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume, who cited research showing parental involvement as the No. 1 key to student success.
"It is not because of a lack of genes but because of a lack of an agenda," Mr. Mfume said of minority students' poor progress, particularly on national tests, and the failure of some families to take an interest in what happens to their youngsters at school.
The radio, television, print and Internet ads are being created pro bono by the UniWorld agency on behalf of the nonprofit Advertising Council. The Ad Council is joining with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, PFAW and Eastman Kodak Co., which is providing a $1.2 million grant, in the most extensive campaign ever to focus on minority families and education.
The Ad Council, funded by public and corporate donations, has created other memorable national public service campaigns, including "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste" for the United Negro College Fund, and the character Smokey Bear and his famous slogan "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires." The organization receives about $39 million per year in donated media air time and ad space, said Ad Council President Peggy Conlon, who previewed two television commercials, set to air when the NAACP campaign begins in September on 25,000 media outlets nationwide.
In one, parents are seen cheering for a young black man as he ponders his next move.
The visuals make it seem like he is a competitor at an athletic event, but as the camera pulls away, the child is shown successfully completing a difficult math problem on a chalkboard, his answers drawing chants of praise and applause from black families who are visiting his classroom.
In another print ad, on display at the National Press Club yesterday, a knowing black father glares into the frame with a look of authority. The ad copy reads: "It's not about the ball. It's not about the shoes. It's not about the clock or the competition. It's about your future. And between you and me, you're going to pass that math test." Separate ads have been created in Spanish.
Daniel A. Carp, Kodak chairman and CEO, said his organization got involved with the campaign not only because they care about diversity, but because they believe minority academic progress is a workplace issue with severe consequences in the emerging global marketplace. Americans, he said, must deal with the issue now or face future problems with world competition.
"If we leave behind a segment of our country, all we are doing is giving up an opportunity and relegating ourselves to second place," he said.
Mr. Mfume declined to blame minority parents who have not been involved, saying many are struggling with "distractions," like time and resources, that make it hard for them to pay appropriate attention to their children's schooling. Education, however, remains "our bridge over troubled water" and key for future success, he said.
"We want to tell parents, there's only one chance to help kids in their formative years," said Mr. Mfume, who called for better time management from parents to make their children a priority. "We just want to say to parents, 'we understand,' but that one bit of apple can't be missed."


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