Education,Sunshine and Enthusiasm

Education, Sunshine and Enthusiasm Can Change the World

Last night, an inspiring TED video moved me to tears of wonder and joy:  Bill Strickland makes change with a slide show.  Trust me when I say that this is a compelling presentation you will want to watch more than once. Strickland discusses the cause of and solutions to the chronic economic and educational challenges facing many urban areas.  He inter-weaves uncomfortable statistical truths with stories of inspiration and discovery gleaned from the monumental success of the award winning Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The center is part of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation which offers diverse programming that combines to create empowering educational environments for adults-in-transition as well as urban and at-risk youth, enriching Southwestern Pennsylvania and, eventually, the world.

National Recognition

As part of a bill recently submitted to Congress to approve the creation of a National Federal Program for Arts and Technology, Manchester Bidwell Corporation is referred to as the proven program model to roll-out across the nation.  The MDC site is often visited by business leaders, politicians, celebrities and diplomats.  The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) includes a Jazz Studio which has produced recordings from renown artists such as Herbie Hancock and Nancy Wilson.  MCG Jazz reaches both a national and international audience with its live recordings. Four of the five nominated MCG Jazz produced recordings have won Grammies.

Bill & Rose Strickland with the Jazz group Foreplay

The Man Behind the Cause

As CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation and Bill Strickland Foundation, Strickland makes the impossible possible by applying unconventional yet common sense solutions to urban problems.  In addition to being a business leader, artist and scholar in his own right, Strickland is also known as a social architect, community leader and visionary credited with implementing inspirational change in his hometown of Manchester, Pittsburgh. For Strickland, “success is the point where your most authentic talents, passion, values, and experiences intersect with the chance to contribute to some greater good.”

Strickland doesn’t shy away from the fact that as a society we must confront the chronic neglect and inequality that is rapidly weakening our social infrastructure by abandoning entire communities. Nor does he deny that sometimes even he feels overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. He challenges the assumption that those who are disadvantaged do not have the desire or will to succeed.  Strickland is proving that if you give students sunshine, food and enthusiasm, you can bring them right back to life.

Memorable Quotes

I figure Strickland tells his story better than anyone else, so in the words of Mr. Strickland….

  • There is absolutely no reason why poor people can’t learn world-class technology.  What we’ve discovered is you have to give them flowers, sunlight and food and expectations and Herbie’s music and you can cure spiritual cancer every time.
  • What we discovered is the only thing wrong with poor people is that they don’t have any money, which happens to be a curable condition.
  • It’s all in the way you think about people that often determines their behavior.
  • There’s nothing wrong with these kids that affection, sunshine, food and enthusiasm can’t cure.
  • If you treat children like human beings, it increases the likelihood they will behave that way.  Why we can’t institute that in every school in every town remains a mystery to me.
  • Children will become like the people who teach them.
  • Mothers will go where their children are being celebrated. Every time, in every town, in every city.
  • You have to change the way people see themselves before you can change their behavior.”
  • You must be prepared to act on your dreams, just in case they do come true.
  • I’m tired of living like this. Going into town after town with people standing around on corners with holes where eyes used to be, their spirits damaged.
  • Don’t give up on the poor kids because you never know who they will be.  I was one of them.
  • If you want to involve yourself in the lives of people who have been given-up on, you must look like  part of the solution and not the problem.

Program Offerings

The Bidwell Training Center offers degrees or diplomas in several areas:

  • Chemical Laboratory Technician
  • Culinary Arts
  • Electronic Record Medical Assistant
  • Horticulture Technology
  • Medical Claims Processor
  • Medical Coder
  • Pharmacy Technician

Completion and employment rates can be found online.

Today, Manchester Bidwell Corporation has evolved into a national model for education, culture and hope.  Manchester Bidwell has replicated programs from the Pittsburgh model in San Francisco, CA (Bayview Center for Arts and Technology) Cincinnati,OH (Cincinnati Arts and Technology Center) and the most recent in Grand Rapids, Michigan (West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology).

In the words of Strickland, “we can turn this whole situation around to one of hope and celebration.  Every child in every town is banking on you.” 


Recommended Reading

In Make the Impossible Possible, Bill
Strickland shows how each of us, by adopting the attitudes and beliefs he has
lived by every day, can reach our fullest potential and achieve the impossible
in our lives and careers–and perhaps change the world a little in the process.
Make the Impossible Possible teaches us how to build on our passions and strengths, dream bigger and set the bar higher, achieve meaningful success, and inspire the lives of others.



When not reading or working, I’m supporting my favorite charities: Teen Living Programs where I am a mentor, committee member and Executive Board member and YWCA Chicago where I am an Associate Board Member. I am passionate about causes related to supporting youth, women and families. Particularly in the areas of education, social services and housing. I can be reached at if you would like to know more about my charities or the blog.


Categories: Education, Professional Development, Social

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2 replies

  1. From Japan, thank you for following and visiting my blog. What an energetic activist you are!

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