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by Ken Budd, AARP The Magazine, January/February 2009 issue
Alma Powell has never met the first graders at Bush Hill Elementary School in Northern Virginia, and yet they converge on her as if she were a trusted friend. One girl rests her head on Powell’s shoulder. Another slips under Powell’s right arm. Children like these, children of all colors and faiths, are Powell’s passion. At 71—the most fulfilling time of her life, she says—Powell is chair of America’s Promise Alliance, a children’s-aid organization she founded in 1997 with her husband, General Colin Powell. Five promises anchor the Powell effort: to succeed in life, all young people need caring adults, safe places (homes or schools), a healthy start, effective education, and opportunities to help others. America’s Promise (www.americas promise.org) helps fulfill these promises by providing financial support to children’s organizations across the country. At stake, Powell believes, is nothing less than the nation’s future. “UNICEF did a study last year of 21 developed nations and how well they take care of their children. We’re number 20,” says Powell. “What is our future if we don’t turn that around?”
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