First Chance—How Kids With Nothing Can Change Everything

Some 2.7 million children in America have a parent who is incarcerated. About 1.6 million kids have endured homelessness. In recent decades, the number of mothers in prison has skyrocketed, leaving hundreds of thousands of children in protective services. These children face extreme adversity—being shuffled from foster home to foster home, in some cases more than fifty times.

Every year, nearly 30,000 children age out of the foster care system with no permanent home and no familial support to turn to. Only 10 percent of those teens attend college, and even fewer—3 percent—graduate.

Robert O. Carr, Beyond CEO, philanthropist, and author, is on a mission to give students who have faced extreme adversity a shot at academic success. That’s why he founded nonprofit and Beyond beneficiary, Give Something Back (Give Back) in 2003. Give Back provides college scholarships and mentoring to students who have faced economic hardship and familial challenges, such as foster care, homelessness, or the incarceration of a parent.

Carr’s new book, First Chance, tells the remarkable stories of students who have faced immeasurable obstacles and how Give Back is working to help reverse their odds of success—through education. The book explores the challenges of students from severely troubled backgrounds who—when given an opportunity—succeed in the college classroom alongside peers from comfort and affluence. First Chance is an account of triumph after trouble—a testament to the power of a lending hand.

At a time when the rate of incarceration in the US is near its highest, First Chance gives a voice to a highly vulnerable and often invisible group of children. Through education, these unseen students learn to find their voice, attain confidence, and forge a path for themselves, often becoming leaders and valedictorians.

Learn more about how Give Back is changing the lives of students like these and how you can help. Net proceeds of First Chance go to Give Back.

“An inspiring message of resilience, hope, and triumph for kids raised with painful adversities.” -Hoda Kotb, Host at NBC’s ‘Today’

Get the book today.

About the Author:
After growing up in a volatile household himself, Robert O. Carr has made a mission of reaching out to young people who have known hardship. Carr created scholarship and mentoring program Give Something Back as a gesture of gratitude for a $250 scholarship he unexpectedly received during his senior year in high school in 1963. Today, a nationally prominent business leader, Carr is the founder and CEO of Beyond.

He is also the author of Through The Fires: An American Story of Turbulence, Business Triumph and Giving Back (2014) and Working Class to College: The Promise and Peril Facing Blue Collar America (2017), both distributed by the University of Illinois Press.

Co-author Dirk Johnson is a former bureau chief for the New York Times and Newsweek.


  • First Chance: How Kids With Nothing Can Change Everything, By Robert O. Carr with Dirk Johnson, Copyright Ó 2019 by GSBF Media, Distributed by University of Illinois Press
  • USA Today

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