In this second half of the interview with Director of the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development, Dr. Stokes talks about goals for the Center, and data showing a correlation among education, income, and community development.

To read the first half of this interview, click here.

You mentioned that the Cecil J. Picard has succeeded because of where you are. So you've enjoyed being here in Acadiana?

Oh absolutely. First of all, people here are trying to figure out how to make things work, how to get things done, instead of figuring out how to stop you.

With that, I think we've lived here in the community for 2 years, and we live a block away from Girard Park... what's not to like? It's the best time in the world, we can walk everywhere we need to go. As we talk about staying 'green'; my wife and I, we can now walk everywhere.

We've just enjoyed living here, I cannot think of anything you need, that is not here in Lafayette. It's just an exciting place to live. There's an energy here that is just palpable.

Dream large; tell us what you'd like to accomplish in the next 20 years.

Well this is our large dream. We think that we want to continue the small projects that we do, they keep us grounded in reality.

What we're really looking at, is laying out this longitudinal study from birth to 25, asking what is happening over children's lifetimes. When you look at the data, you see this obvious drop from 9th to 12th grade-- about 35% of children who start 9th grade don't finish. So what we're doing today won't work for about 1/3 of our students, and this has a very real economic impact on our community.

But then then you can look back at the data and make the connection between the dropout rate, and the influences between birth and 5 years of early childhood programs. So we're making great strides, but we need to work at-risk children from birth to 3 to improve numeracy, literacy, social and cognitive abilities. That's more difficult than most people believe.

To look at these issues, we used some analytical tools from Education Week. They established 5 different zones, based on the proportion of people with different levels of education. In Zone 1 only 7% of workers have a baccalaureate degree, and they have about a $12-13,000 median income. In Zone 5, 75% of workers have a have baccalaureate, and they make about $60,000.

We took that data and mapped out Lafayette. We're between Zones 2 & 3, 34-37% baccalaureate and $24-$35,000 median income. So what's the educational breakdown we need to to move us up?

This is one of those things where education and business people tend to talk past each other. Business says 35% of kids aren't graduating and they're right, but education needs to talk to business and talk to them about how to change that.

So how can we decrease the percentage of people dropping out?

Enrollment in SLCC has tripled since they opened. So can we work to move students and workers in the lower sections into the community college and the vo-tech schools. And can we also do things to attract more people with baccalaureate to come to Lafayette.

We keep working to develop this data even more. We'd like this information to become available for serious economic development. LEDA gave us the breakdown on the workforce in Lafayette. We're going to North Carolina to look at a program called '13th Grade'... instead of giving up on students who are not expected to graduate, you offer them 13th grade, done in conjunction with UL at Lafayette and the community college or vo-tech, so they can walk out with technical or associate degree. That improves the economic development within the community.

Then you ask, Does the community have the jobs for them?

Because another little known fact-- I think it was from CABL-- in 1990 and 2000 we had 20-30,000 students who finished their baccalaureate and graduate degree in Louisiana, but left the state. There's a 16-year investment in 20,000 to 30,000 kids that we're losing. So schools and business need to talk. We need better alignment between business & schools.

The other thing that dawned on us looking at this, we don't know how to measure it yet, is quality of life. You could be living in a Zone 2 with a $25,000 median income, but if you enjoy your quality of life, you might be making enough to live happily.

We don't want to push the idea that everyone needs to be rich. A large home doesn't necessarily guarantee happiness. We need to look at that too, but we also have to look at income, and other factors. Low income is highly correlated with low education, health and other risk factors.

This data can help us understand quality of life issues.