When Bill Strickland drove around some downtrodden neighbourhoods of HRM he recognized the kids he saw.
“They all look the same, man,” he said. “Whether it’s Halifax or Pittsburgh or Detroit or Johannesburg. They have the same pathology and the same sad story, and the kids stand on the corner at 2 o’clock at night, with nothing in their eyes.”
He believes the good news is that they can all be helped in the same way.
“Hope is hope,” he told a packed Cunard Centre audience yesterday in a speech sponsored by the Greater Halifax Partnership.
“There’s nothing wrong with these children that affection and good food and fabulous facilities won’t cure.”
Strickland is president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation. He grew up in the Pittsburgh ghetto, where he would later build a groundbreaking job-training centre and community arts program. By providing state of the art facilities to underprivileged youths, the centre has seen dramatic success.
Strickland was in Halifax to talk about how Halifax can recreate that success.
His philosophy is that many children under-perform because they can’t visualize themselves being more successful and in a better environment.
That’s why he thinks they need to be shown that environment.
“We have to put positive images in front of kids’ eyes. Right now the images in front of them aren’t very positive, so the idea is to change the landscape,” he said.
Strickland said his facility aims to do that by providing artistic and professional facilities to youths, so they have an outlet to develop their talents and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
“If you build world-class facilities, you get world-class kids,” he said.
Strickland’s dream is to eventually build 200 such facilities — 100 in the United States and another 100 across the world.