OUR KIDS: Narrowing the Opportunity Gap

WHY THIS SERIES is so important:

  • About 15 million children or 21% of children in the United States live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level;
  • Students between the ages of 16-24 from low income families are seven times more likely to drop out of school than those who come from families with higher incomes;
  • Our teachers demand to be paid on a sustainable basis and our kids march in the streets demanding their rights;
  • 31% of the American population cannot read above the 4th grade level.

Over the past four decades, an alarming opportunity gap has widened among our nation’s children. If present trends continue, the traditional American ideal that individuals can move up the socioeconomic ladder regardless of where they started out in life is at risk. The impact will be profound not just on our children but on our economy and even the strength of our democracy.

The Our Kids Media Project is a national wake-up call that will begin airing on public television across the country in April 2019.

This 4-part series, hosted by Harvard professor, Dr. Robert Putnam, author of the best-selling book with the same title, and author of Bowling Alone (750,000 copies sold), profiles younger generations, their families and their communities. Focusing on concepts of equity, we tell inter-connected stories about families, education, parenting, economic status, social justice, and the role of communities, offering choices on how our youth are affected.

Our Kids travels to eight communities across the country uncovering the issues, talking to kids, parents, educators, community leaders, non-profits, and those spearheading innovative grassroots efforts to halt this dangerous and ever-growing decline and restore a greater chance for upward mobility for all of our children. Many of these grassroots programs can be adapted and adopted by communities across the country with the necessary local support. These programs can ignite and invigorate struggling communities that are looking for answers to this growing problem.


Discussion and action around the concept of equity is the central core of our project. We must create a more equitable society where every child has hope and is not destined to fail or succeed based on the success or failure of his or her parents or on their zip code.


Change can’t happen overnight. While some of the programs profiled in the series have more immediate outcomes, they all feature long-term strategies that we must PUT INTO PRACTICE NOW. In every city we visited, we were encouraged by the dedicated professionals, community leaders and activists, ordinary citizens and even students themselves, who are determined to narrow the opportunity gap and reach all of our kids.

THE MEDIA PROJECT includes the following components:

  • National public television broadcast
  • Private targeted screenings
  • Town Hall Meetings to be locally and regionally televised
  • Website with comprehensive resources
  • Video Resource Library of many shorter videos, streaming
  • Companion Book featuring the words and faces of our children
  • Educational distribution
  • Professional conferences
  • A Solutions Summit Forum that, over two days, assembles and disseminates solutions’ templates to networks of communities, from the leading people who have appeared in the original four-hour series

Our Kids depicts the importance of compassion and ‘community’ in our efforts to meet the growing needs of youth. It’s a call to action for all of us.

Ann Bischoff CEO, Star House, Columbus, OH

As adults, many of us take our stable foundations for granted. I cannot stress enough the importance of awareness when it comes to kids in poverty. “Our Kids” will shed a much needed light on the impact of poverty in America and how the stress of poverty bleeds into every facet of life, especially when it comes to youth. The widening opportunity gap of this country is often unseen and unacknowledged by those of us that are privileged enough to do so.

Amy Blansit Drew Lewis Foundation, Springfield, MO

Thank you, Robert Putnam and the Media Policy Center, for this deep and comprehensive nationwide tour of programs and people who are role modeling creativity and commitment in helping our kids find their best.  Thank you for showing us that we all need to reach out more and that, in doing so, bit-by-crucial-bit, we will find our best – as a neighborhood, a community, a nation.

Jim Nute Executive Director, Mayhew Program, Bristol, New Hampshire

ROBERT D. PUTNAM is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. The Sunday Times of London has called Robert D. Putnam "the most influential academic in the world." In 2006, Putnam received the Skytte Prize, the world’s highest accolade for a political scientist, and in 2012, he received from President Obama the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities.

Putnam is the author of the best-selling books, Bowling Alone and Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.


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