Powell’s `promise’ takes flight

Gen. Colin Powell’s brainchild, America’s Promise: The Alliance for Youth, and United Airlines announced a partnership to promote volunteerism Thursday morning in the Marvin Center ballroom.

The initiative, VolunteerMiles, will award 10,000 student volunteers a total of 100 million frequent flyer miles annually for their services. The initiative also links America’s Promise with one of its first corporate partners.

“America’s Promise is a national not-for-profit organization . dedicated to mobilizing the nation to ensure our children and youth have access to the fundamental resources they need to become successful adults,” according the organization’s literature.

The program aims to “recover our sense of community, and feel that we are once again a nation of caring neighbors,” Powell said.

America’s Promise attempts to alleviate problems that plague the lives of young people, such as high dropout rates, illiteracy, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, juvenile crime and gang violence, Powell said.

To help young people achieve success, the program offers five fundamental resources: a mentoring relationship with a caring adult, safe places and structured non-school activities, a healthy start, marketable skills through effective education and an opportunity to give back to society.

To earn VolunteerMiles, full-time students at four-year colleges and universities in the United States must enroll in United College Plus, which provides them with the airline’s Mileage Plus benefits to travel. For every 50 hours of volunteerism, students will receive 5,000 Mileage Plus miles from United.

Students may earn service hours through work with up to two of the following six nonprofit organizations: Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, One-to-One: The National Mentoring Partnership, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation and Best Buddies International.

Powell said the necessity of the program was evident recently when he read an article about two young brothers in jail for committing a series of violent crimes.

“I looked at the pictures of them (in The Washington Post) when they were boys; they looked just like me when I was young,” he said.

“Why weren’t we there to help them?” he asked. “I am certain if we were there, their lives could have been turned around.”

American citizens and corporations alike must return to building our community, he said.

Powell said United Airlines is acting in its own self-interest by investing in the future and showing it cares about more than just profits.

“This type of incentive program seeks to recognize and reward cooperative service,” said Gerald Greenwald, United Airlines chairman and chief executive officer, in a press release. “It is good for the bottom line and good for the soul.”

President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he expects GW students will take this opportunity to give back to the community because they already “give their time and energy to their neighbors.”

He cited the more than 500 GW students who provide their services through the University’s Neighbors Project, run through the Office of Community Service.

Eric Douglas, a sophomore Neighbors Project volunteer who also addressed the audience, said he hopes GW students will reach out to the community because service creates positive social change.

“Community service is a tool to open people’s eyes to challenge and question why we believe things we believe,” Douglas said.

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