and I think the Nationwide decision to build a sports facility here
downtown that would house a new
NHL franchise [was that catalyst].
Like a lot of urban-revitalization
efforts, you get to these critical tipping points.
Frankel: Do you believe that
are the critical factor in a lot
of urban-renewal successes?
that we have an obligation to try
to let people become whatever
their talents will let them become.
You won’t have a fighting chance
to do that in any walk of life without an education. Whether I am
talking to third-graders or sixth-graders, [I tell them] not only do
you need to get to college but you
need to succeed at college, and
when you do, then the world is
there for the taking for you. These
kids can accomplish anything—if
they get access to the same qualified teachers, if they get access to
Columbus system. Grade-school
principals, middle school and high
school—it really gave a lot of people a firsthand look of what was
going on inside of the building.
It provides ability when you see
it up close and personal, to bust
a lot of myths. Myth No. 1 would
be that these kids can’t learn—
that is ridiculous. Myth No. 2 is
that these teachers really don’t
care, they are just putting their
time in. Neither of those could
be further from the truth.
I recently said we should men-
Jurgensen: They’re absolutely
essential; neither side can do it
alone. Smart public partic-
ipation—and I would put our mayor and city coun- Myth No. 1: These kids can’t learn.
cil in the smart column— really needs to be atten- Myth No. 2: The teachers really don’t care.
tive to strategic investing.
Most of the money will need to
come from private sources, and
most of the money will need to
be economically sound. In other
words, people need to be able to
earn a fair return on the capital
that they invest in these projects.
The public part of the partnership
really comes from providing necessary infrastructure and other
things that enable the capital
the same level of adult support
not only inside the building but
outside the building, then what
they can become is limitless.
Frankel: I understand that
Nationwide and you personally have been very concerned
with the mentoring program,
especially for African-American
youth. Can you talk about that?
Frankel: Can you talk about
with Columbus’ public education and your personal involvement in that?
Jurgensen: I am involved [in
education reform] at the national level and the state level,
but my real heart is in Columbus
city schools. A significantly large
number of Nationwiders have
come from the Columbus public
schools, and that is true historically and that will be true into the
future. I just feel very strongly
Jurgensen: We are blessed to
have a superintendent named
Gene Harris. I met Gene when I
first came to town and I asked
her what she dreams about with
respect to these kids. Her No. 1
goal was to graduate 90 percent
of the kids in Columbus public
schools. When she first articulated this goal to me [in 2001],
we were graduating in the low
50 percent range. Last year, we
graduated 73 percent. I started
a program a few years ago called
Principal for a Day where we got
community volunteers to spend
a day shadowing a principal in the
tor every single kid in the eighth-grade class. Somebody came up
to me and said, “That is typical
for you, and you have a good idea
here, but it isn’t possible to do every single kid.” Long story short,
we put together a plan to go from
0 mentors to 10,000 mentors
over a five-year period of time.
Our first-year goal was 1,000 and
we got 1, 100. One of the things
that makes me personally proud is
that of the first 1,000 adult mentors that we got, over 300 of them
were Nationwiders. This year,
which will be our year two, we are
striving to get to 2,000 mentors,
and Nationwide is already at 400.
One of the first things that happens in this relationship is they
know you showed up the first
time; what they want to know is
[if you] will show up a third time.
I didn’t want to necessarily have
to take the time to go around the
community initially and try to sell
the merits of Project Mentor, so
Nationwide just decided to fund
100 percent of it. The first year we