The Economy: What’s Love Got to Do With It? Turns Out, a Whole Lot!

Earlier this month, GCO hosted a lunch and learn with Dr. Brad Wilcox, one of the nation’s leading sociologists. Dr. Wilcox has devoted his work to understanding family formation and the effect it has on our social structure and economy. His new report, “Strong families, prosperous states: Do healthy families affect the wealth of states?” takes a deep dive into the shifts in marriage and family structures – highlighting the factors which influence the national and states’ economic performance.

Georgia is in the bottom ten states for children living with married parents and at the bottom for college educated individuals. These statistics have a defining negative effect on the state’s economy and correlate with a higher number of Georgians on welfare programs and in the state’s penitentiary system.

At GCO, we understand that strong and healthy marriages have been proven to be better for all family members and lead to increased economic stability. That is why we are working to strengthen families and marriages, through relationship training so that individuals have skills they need to have healthy relationships and a public campaign to increase the value our culture places on marriage.

As Randy Hicks, President of GCO, states “When we’re successful, fewer Georgians will be living in a condition of dependence, a higher percentage will be enjoying earned success and the fruits of their labor, more children will be ready for college and a career, and more families will have the economic and relational resources to thrive.”

For more information about our Family and Community Initiative, visit:

AEI Event: Improving Prisoner Reentry and Reducing Recidivism

Man in handcuffs

Watch a recording of the event here.

Georgia Center for Opportunity was privileged to partner with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in co-hosting an event on the issue of prisoner reentry at AEI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, July 28th.

The event featured two panels: The first consisting of non-profits leaders who have faced challenges and successes in helping former prisoners successfully reintegrate into society, and the second featuring government leaders who have similarly faced challenges and successes in working to reform the criminal justice system itself.

GCO’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Eric Cochling, moderated the first panel that featured four non-profit leaders, including Craig DeRoche of Justice Fellowship, Harriet McDonald of The Doe Fund, Bryan Kelley of Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and Harold Dean Trulear of Healing Communities. The panelists discussed such themes as the importance for Americans to view prisoners and people with a criminal record as a valuable asset to society, the importance of work and its role in promoting human dignity and successful reintegration, the necessity for returning citizens to experience a change in attitudes and values to avoid recidivating, and the role of the community in embracing returning citizens and “walking with” them in their journey.

The second panel was moderated by Robert Doar, Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at AEI, and featured three government leaders: Georgia’s own Jay Neal, former state representative and current executive director of the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Reentry, Gary Mohr, commissioner of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and Chauncey Parker, special policy advisor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. This panel highlighted specific approaches that states have taken to improve prisoner reentry as a means of promoting public safety, including instilling the mindset that reentry begins at the point of arrest, basing decisions on data instead of knee-jerk reactions, facilitating better connections between family members and incarcerated loved ones, and instilling the importance of viewing offenders as human beings among the criminal justice workforce.

Watch the event and gain a better understanding of how effective collaboration between families, faith communities, service providers, and the government, as well as a changed perception of the ones they are serving, is essential for promoting successful reintegration among returning citizens.


C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Great War

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

The John Jay Institute and Georgia Center for Opportunity co-hosted a lecture held at Whitefield Academy in Mableton, GA, last Thursday titled “C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Great War.” The lecture was given by Dr. Joseph Loconte, an Associate Professor of History at The King’s College in New York.

In his lecture, Dr. Loconte brilliantly demonstrates how the Great War (WWI) shaped both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien’s outlook on the world, who were both soldiers in the war and experienced the horror of the deadliest conflict known to man up to that era. He reveals how the war’s impact can be seen in these author’s extraordinary works of literature, drawing from examples in the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings to highlight ways in which the authors weave in themes of friendship, noble sacrifice, the corruption of power, and the necessity of grace to overcome the power of evil.

Of special interest is the way in which these two men’s close friendship impacted their writing and set them apart from other writers and poets of their day, a number of whom became disillusioned by the evils they saw in the world. Lewis and Tolkien’s works provide an air of hope amid the sad reality of war and suffering, which stemmed from their belief in the redemption that is still to come.

Watch the lecture here:

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Great War – Part I

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Great War – Part II


Image credit: (featured image) (in the post)

From Welfare to Opportunity

From Welfare to Opportunity - Jennifer and Randy

Georgia Center for Opportunity’s President Randy Hicks and the Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall discuss the issues of poverty and family fragmentation, as well as potential local and state solutions to combat these issues during a special luncheon hosted by GCO on April 8, 2015 at the Buckhead Club in Atlanta.

Watch the discussion here:

From Welfare to Opportunity – Part I

From Welfare to Opportunity – Part II

A Real Chance to Prosper Event Recap

Georgia Center for Opportunity’s annual fundraiser, a Real Chance to Prosper, on December 4th was a great success. It brought together around 200 people at the newly opened College Football Hall of Fame for a night celebrating the legacy of the late Jack Kemp and raising important funds for GCO’s work.

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The event provided guests an opportunity to tour the College Football Hall of Fame including many interactive exhibits. During the reception, Jeff and Jimmy Kemp shared stories about their dad and gave insight into the kind of father, football player, and political figure he was.

There were several great items auctioned off throughout the evening from both a live and a silent auction, including a premier cruise excursion, a Peyton Manning signed jersey, an Al Pacino “The Godfather” signed shadowbox, and platinum tickets to the BB&T Atlanta Tennis Open. All donations from the night are used to support our mission to remove barriers to opportunity and ultimately help more Georgians achieve a better life.

Jack Kemp’s beliefs that we must reach every heart and ensure all individuals have the opportunity to reach their God-given potential are ones that we hold dear at GCO. That’s why we’re involved in the work of removing barriers to opportunity by promoting strong families, access to quality education, and steady employment, and why we’re so grateful for the sponsors, attendees, and volunteers who helped make this event a success.

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If you would like to support GCO’s important work, we invite you to make a gift now.

Make a Gift

Sajan George Schools Local Leaders on Education Turnarounds

Over the past year, Georgia Center for Opportunity has hosted a series of luncheons aimed at encouraging local educators and business leaders to think outside of the traditional education reform box. Past keynote speakers have shared ways educators can work within their schools to become “cage-busting” leaders, and how business professionals can form coalitions to support quality education.


In this same vein, GCO recently had the pleasure to host Sajan George, the founder and CEO of Matchbook Learning. Sajan not only introduced the unique Matchbook blended-learning model, but he also shared ways his “turnaround” methodology can be applied to even the most underperforming schools in Georgia.

What is different about Matchbook Learning?

For students at a Matchbook school, grades are virtually irrelevant. Instead, the emphasis is placed on instructional levels of learning. Rather than go through curriculums associated with the grade they are in (i.e., 3rd grade), students begin lessons based on their skill level, which may be higher or lower than the actual grade they are in (e.g., they may be at a 1st or 4th grade level). Students advance from their individual starting points based on their ability to master a skill at a pace that is independent of other students’ progress in the classroom. This concept is commonly referred to as competency-based education.

By using online learning platforms, Matchbook Learning has created a revolutionary learning system that does not just treat the symptoms of failing schools, but addresses the root cause of failure. Far too often schools focus on one-size-fits all instruction and traditional seat-time to improve student outcomes. However, what is truly needed is the ability to customize learning paths to meet students where they are. This system has already proven its ability to propel struggling students to new heights academically by not overwhelming them with instruction far beyond their ability and by allowing them to progress at their own pace.

What is special about Matchbook Learning is that is does not just give struggling students the autonomy to work independently, it also frees up teachers to work with students on a more engaged level.  Through the online platform, teachers always know where their students are in their learning and can arrange their classes with ease to provide more help to students who need it.

Matchbook has already scaled turnaround success in classrooms, schools, and school systems in places like Detroit, MI and Newark, NJ.


Can the Matchbook model turnaround Georgia?

To apply these turnaround methods in Georgia, Sajan noted that a more innovative vision of education is needed across the state. One possible starting point, however, could be Gov. Deal’s proposed recovery schools districts. Looking to the Matchbook Learning system as a best practice for these would-be state charter schools could provide the much needed guidance to transform low-performing schools into student-centered learning environments.

Through collaboration with innovators such as Sajan George, Georgia Center for Opportunity continues to remove barriers to quality education by promoting solutions that have been proven to work. Considering models like that of Matchbook Learning are a much needed step in the right direction for giving Georgia a real chance to prosper.