Earlier this month, 2000 professionals from across the United States and Canada gathered for the Community Schools Forum in Baltimore, Maryland. The Opening Plenary of any large gathering in the world of education is filled with energy, excitement, and an opportunity to be reinvigorated about the work. Robin Hood Foundation ’s CEO Wes Moore kicked off this year’s plenary, and his statement, “We don’t have a school to prison pipeline, we have a poverty to prison pipeline,” resonated with many of the attendees. Mr. Moore’s statement was the fire that lit the match to remind us that poverty is not a choice by families, it is a circumstance created by systems.
Whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, young or old, when you’re a parent, you have hopes and dreams for your children. You want them to exceed what you have done in your lifetime. What parents/families do each day is try to clear obstacles while creating a path for their children to succeed. “Your seats were paid for long before you ever got here to today’s event,” said Mr. Moore, and that’s because we’re products of someone else’s expectations of us that we have lived up to. That is what families in low-income neighborhoods are doing each day no matter how tough the circumstances are, they are believing in their children, and the power of their potential. However, the difficult thing that still exists is the fact that systems have been created in low-income neighborhoods to perpetuate the cycles of poverty, and impede youth the opportunity to live up to their full potential.
Under resourced schools lacking adequate materials, facilities, food & nutrition access, mental health support services, and a host of other critical resources that support a student, family and a neighborhood are part of a larger systemic issue.
When we begin to see that people created the systems that are in place today and prevent everyone from succeeding, we start making real change. Then, and only then, can children who are living in poverty CLAIM their seats at the table, and live up to the potential of success that we as professionals see for them, as their families do.
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