Mr. Barth’s commitment to after-school education for children living in challenged neighborhoods began with his involvement with the Shalimar community in Westside Costa Mesa. In 1994 Mr. Barth met with neighborhood mothers who were concerned for their children’s safety and welfare after the latest gang-related shooting in their neighborhood. In meeting with the mothers, Mr. Barth quickly realized that what the children in the neighborhood needed was a safe, welcoming place to gather after school, a place where they could receive both tutoring and moral support. Mr. Barth marshaled the resources of Shalimar community members and volunteers from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church to establish the Shalimar Learning and Teen Center.
The success of the Shalimar effort in protecting children while contributing to their improved academic performance in school encouraged Mr. Barth seek support from Mariners Church for the founding of a similar center in Santa Ana in 1996 – the Lighthouse Learning Center on Minnie Street.
THINK Together was founded in 1997, following the concept of the award-wining Shalimar model, “to provide academic support to at-risk students so they could reach their full potential.” THINK stood for Teaching, Helping, Inspiring and Nurturing Kids. Over the ensuing five years, the organization grew to serve 2,500 students at 14 sites through private funding and a combination of paid staff and volunteers.
When children and youth’s out-of-school time began to receive more attention at the state and national levels in the early 1990s and California passed Proposition 49 in 2002, THINK Together began to partner with public school districts to create a more sustainable model funded in part by Proposition 49 resources.
Today, THINK Together serves over 35,000 students in 200+ sites at 19 school districts across four counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino), utilizing a stream of public and private resources. Children and youth who attend a THINK Together program participate in an hour of academic instruction, an hour of tutoring on class work and homework, and an hour of exercise and other activities.
Over the years, THINK Together has received a steady stream of awards and recognition from local, state, and national organization, including:
- Community Service Award: Orange County’s Top Charity, 1997, Disney Corporation
- Orange County Register’s R.C. Holes Award: Charity of the Year, 1997
- Listing in U.S. Department of Education’s Guide to After-School as a model program exemplifying best practices, 2000
- In partnership with Santa Ana Unified School District, awarded $2.6 million per year federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant, 2003
- Ethics in America Award from the Passkeys Foundation
- In partnership with Tustin Unified School District and Campfire Girls, awarded $1 million per year federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant, 2004
- Bank of America Neighborhood Builder Awards, 2005
- $1 million Grant, Irvine Company, 2006
- Named by U.S. Department of Education as 1 of 5 National Demonstration Sites to study and develop a national model for the alignment of SES (socio-economic status) and 21st Century Community Learning Center-funded after-school programs, 2008
- $8.5 million Grant, Irvine Company, 2008
- "Breakfast of Champions" honoring of Randy Barth by After School Alliance, April 2009 in Washington, D.C. for his support of afterschool programs
Mr. Barth’s background has prepared him well to build and sustain a large, continually growing organization like THINK Together. Prior to his work with the after-school community, he had earned a B.A. in Economics from UCLA and served as an investment advisor with various major Wall Street firms (E.F. Hutton, Drexel Burnham, Smith Barney) for fifteen years. Subsequently, he served as CEO of National Management, a $40 million privately-held regional transportation company for five year. Along the way he found time to pursue graduate studies at Peter F. Drucker School of Management, Claremont Graduate University.
Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Barth considers THINK Together both “a career highlight and a life cause wrapped into one.” Although he is particularly proud that more than 100 THINK students have gone on to graduate from college, he recognizes that the need for wide-spread involvement is on-going if significant changes are going to be made. As he explains,
U.S. students as a whole perform below their peers globally. California, home to more than 13% of our nation’s students, performs at or near the bottom in virtually every category. By 18 years of age, students of color and students in poverty (roughly half of California’s students) perform five grade levels below their peers. This chasm, known as the “achievement gap,” is the civil rights issue of our day.
We need legislation to more effectively align disparate public funding streams around the goal of increased student achievement. We need private donors – both large and small – to provide matching funds that leverage the public investment. We need partners at schools willing to work collaboratively to better align these programs with the school day. And finally, we need parents to be involved with their students to set high expectations so that students can reach their full potential.