On October 1, 2015, Dr. Annemarie Grassi, CEO of Open Doors Academy, opened the 2015-2016 Schubert Center Conversation series with the talk, “The Fish vs the Fisherman: Equipping Youth with the Tools to Thrive.” Dr. Grassi explained the impact of inequalities in education, at home, and in the broader society that prevent our young people from thriving. She pointed to her own childhood as motivating her to try and develop programs that would help young people to achieve their full potential. Open Doors Academy blends high expectations and unconditional love, emphasizing that strong relationships are at the core of positive youth outcomes. Dr. Grassi then pointed to the outcomes for ODA participants showing improvements in school success in terms of higher grade point averages and 100% high school graduation rates. As Dr. Grassi puts it, “we get what we give” and must invest in our children.
Dr. Grassi’s talk was followed by comments from by Dr. Lisa Damour, Director of the Center for Research on Girls at Laurel School, columnist for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, and author of the forthcoming book, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood (Ballantine Books, 2016). Dr. Damour highlighted how Open Doors Academy’s provision of both structure and warmth provides young people with the supervision that keeps them from falling into the “holes” of drugs, drinking, and sex, pushes them “up hills” to achieve, and makes “course corrections” with the parallel that moving a ship’s direction just a few degrees as it departs can make an enormous difference in where it lands. She echoed Dr. Grassi’s urgings to invest in young people and pointed to the critical importance of involvement of non-family adults in the lives of young people. Young people who have these relationships with adults have better grades, higher self-esteem, and are more interested in helping others.
Dr. Grassi and Dr. Damour were followed by an Open Doors Academy participant who talked about how Open Doors Academy had helped her to understand the importance of doing well as evidenced by an increase in her grade point average and attitude towards school and learning. She was followed by her mother who poignantly expressed the relief of a working parent knowing that her child would be supervised and nurtured in the after-school hours.