A high-quality, accessible education is critically important to society and the national identity. Unfortunately though, we all know our system is not working as effectively, and it often feels as though the inertia can be overwhelming. But as they say, “when there’s no wind, start rowing,” we can all put our oars in the water.

Access to a good education is more essential, but for most Americans, more elusive, than ever. More than simply knowledge, education instills the confidence to offer up your ideas and creates a toolkit with which to assimilate new information and skills to adapt to accelerating rates of change. Fortunately, numerous efforts to reform the U.S. education system are underway and much of this is best left to professionals with first-hand experience of teaching and administration.

But we also must acknowledge that even if reforms are successful, school curricula may not be able to keep up with the pace of change in business and technology. It therefore seems that we need a parallel track to in-classroom reforms: investment outside classrooms to build better bridges to the “real world.” As professionals, we can make a major contribution to this parallel effort, serving as role models and hands-on engineers that build those bridges and help youth realize all that their talents promise to society.

One way is to support organizations like Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) or Futures and Options (which I serve on the board of), which are powerful additions to the existing education infrastructure. F&O, for example, gives underprivileged Manhattan high school students career-readiness, resumé and job-skills training before placing them in paid internships. The students receive valuable work experience and mentorship that connects their education to practical skills, allowing them to envision what options their continued education can create for them.

F&O admits “average” students—not the cream of the crop—and the result is high school graduation rates of 100 percent and college enrollment of 93 percent. F&O demonstrates the power of augmenting traditional education with real world exposure.

Comprehensive education, inside and outside of the classroom, is critical for the success of future entrepreneurs, CEOs, and business owners. By enabling students to envision a path to professional success, we can increase the likelihood that they will embrace education as a means to get there.