I am going to ask you to make an investment today. I am not a financial adviser or a stock broker so I won’t be giving you financial investment advice.

I am going to ask you to make an investment today. I am not a financial adviser or a stock broker so I won’t be giving you financial investment advice.

The investment I write about today is an investment in the future of your community. I don’t care if you live in Independence, Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit, Oak Grove, Grain Valley, Buckner or Sugar Creek. This investment will involve leveraging. I have never been bold enough to engage in leveraging in the stock market. Leveraging means using someone else’s money that you borrow to invest with the hope that you will make a return on the investment and enough to pay back the lender.

I have been thinking a lot recently about investing in our children. In effect, I propose to use the principles of leveraging to help pay for their educations. Please bear with me while I explain.

If I want to pay for a kid’s college education and I had $125,000, I could go give $125,000 and pay for a four-year education at a state university. At a private school, it will be at least $50,000 more than that. If I don’t fund the education, I could go borrow the money in a student loan, but someone has to pay that back. Think about all of the student loans that are being paid for now by young adults who really can’t afford to pay the loans.

What if instead of paying for one scholarship, I instead invest the money in an athletic or fine arts program that helps develop a young person into an athlete, musician or actor who earns a college scholarship through his or her talent? The investment I would be making is in a child.

That is one of the reasons why I started Bears Tomorrow, a not for profit 501(c)(3) corporation about five years ago. I figured that if we helped develop future athletes at William Chrisman High School and put them in a position to earn a college scholarship that we would be investing a few dollars that would turn into a valuable scholarship. It appears to be working, as some of our athletes are starting to draw attention from college recruiters. If we invest $5,000 or so into developing a student athlete and the athlete earns a scholarship worth $125,000 or more, isn’t that a pretty good return on investment?

Nichoas Kristof, a syndicated columnist at the New York Times, wrote a column a couple of weeks ago about a man named John Woods, a former marketing director at Microsoft who started a foundation to build libraries in third world countries. He began this journey in 1998 by delivering a bunch of books by a caravan of donkeys into the mountains of Vietnam. The children were so happy when he arrived and Woods felt such exhilaration that he quit his job at Microsoft. John Woods discovered that there is a joy in giving and helping children that is far deeper than any other joy there is.

Through his efforts and his foundation’s efforts, they have built 12,000 libraries and started 1,500 schools. They just handed out their 10 millionth book in Vietnam. Mr. Woods tells people who might donate to his foundation that they are not making a charitable donation, but instead are investing in a child’s future.

I could invest $5,000 in a scholarship fund at my favorite university or I could invest $5,000 in Bears Tomorrow and help a child earn that scholarship. In essence, that child’s value increases dramatically if artistic or athletic abilities are developed and the return on investment is staggering. And consider the trickle down benefits on families, neighborhoods, communities, schools and other children. It’s a variation of the Chinese proverb that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

There was a picture in the Examiner last week of seven female athletes at Blue Springs South who earned athletic scholarships. How did this happen? More than likely parents began investing in their daughters at a young age. Countless hours at a soccer field, or softball field or a gym watching endless hours of practice were spent by the children, but the parents were there, too, investing in their children’s future. Weekends were often spent at tournaments all over the country. Much money was spent by parents and others undoubtedly. Yet, the value of those seven scholarships must approach $1,000,000. That is leveraging.

So I give you a choice today as to whether you will make an investment. Bears Tomorrow welcomes “investments.” Or you could contact your school district foundation. I can put you in touch with the Independence School District Foundation, or there are community foundations that can assist you.

If you make an investment you will experience the exhilarating joy that John Woods and I have experienced.