Transforming A School And Kids' Lives

This piece was written by CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.


Can you imagine sending your child to a high school where only one in four students will graduate, one with no extra-curricular activities: no football, no basketball, no band, and on and on?

This is what Cincinnati's Taft High School was like when Anthony Smith took over as principal in 2002. He knew life would offer his students few options. After all, he'd gone to Taft himself. He knew the tough streets surrounding his school and the allure they held for many teens. He also knew school just might be his kids' only salvation.

He also knew he couldn't change things alone. At a meeting of city leaders following the race riots of 2001 he found himself next to the CEO of Cincinnati Bell, Jack Cassidy. Cassidy wanted to find a way to help his town heal. Smith was desperate for a miracle to help save his old school. In each other, both found what they were looking for.

When students came back to Taft that fall, they found it had been hardwired with five state of the art computer labs. It was cleaned up and sported a new coat of paint. For many companies in a very competitive business this might have been enough, but not for Cincinnati Bell. Cassidy convinced his workforce to share their talents with the young men and women at Taft. And to this day, twice a week dozens of Cincinnati Bell employees show up at the school to offer one-on-one tutoring for anyone who wants or needs extra help. Amazingly, not one student who has gone to tutoring has failed the state's tough proficiency test.

This is also a story of how one businessman put himself on the line for kids who often have nowhere to turn. He gives Taft students his personal cell-phone number, so they understand he will be there for them. He has even provided some kids with shelter in his own home. For him it is all about opportunity-the opportunity his children got solely by virtue of the family they were born into. He wanted to see to it that other kids got a break somewhere along the way. There is no question his commitment and that of his employees is changing lives every single day.

Principal Anthony Smith has managed to up graduation and attendance rates and has managed to bring back all the extras that help keep kids in school. The band marches again at the school's beautiful stadium. Taft Senators finished the 2006 football season a respectable 6 and 4. The school's basketball team is currently 4 and 1 and will take the court again January 13th.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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