BLOG ACTION DAY: How you can reverse the downward spiral towards increasing poverty in Central Texas

In thinking about povery today and what I might post for Blog Action Day, I wanted to focus on actions we could take to reverse the downward spiral occurring in Central Texas towards increasing poverty.

What I’m learning more about is this relationship between education and poverty. I think we all know high school graduates earn more over their lifetime than non-graudates, and the same holds true for college grads.

According to Communities in Schools:

“Dropouts make up nearly half the heads-of-households on welfare.”
“One in three Central Texas ninth graders is not enrolled in the twelfth grade three years later.”
“With this school year, 8,000 Austin ISD middle School students will be at risk of not graduating high school.” 
“The dropout statistics promise to grow worse each year as the demographics in Texas begin their dramatic shift.”

So if you want to effect Central Texas poverty going forward, one of the best ways to do that is to help some of these kids finish school. (And definitely make sure your kid finishes school.)

The relationship between a child and a mentor or tutor has proven to help keep that child in school and even do well in school.  Which is not a surprise.  Good news is, there are a lot of mentoring and tutoring opportunities out there. Here are a few to consider:
Any Baby Can, which has been helping Austin’s youngest, sickest and poorest children for 30 years

Volunteer at the Saturday Learning Center… or Family Literacy Program Tuesdays and Thursdays…
Help tutor children and parents in literacy, math and English.

The Arc of Capital Area, which helps adults and children with developmental disabilities attain self sufficiency.

Academic coaching – Volunteers are matched with a Special Education student to tutor on various subjects and help the student reach obtainable academic goals.
Parent matches – Parents of a child with a disability are paired to discuss various care-giving topics and for moral support.

Caritas of Austin, which fights hunger, homelessness, poverty and fear – a great mission

5 hours a week you can Work with low-income working parents making the transition to financial stability by talking about money management skills, job interview skills, etc.

Communities in Schools, whose sole purpose is to keep Austin kids in school.

Lots of tutoring opportunities here. You can sign up for 1 hour a week for the school year.
OR this one starts in January 2009 – be a Tech Tots Mentor, which is where you mentor low-income families in their homes on how to use computers, software, printers, the Internet.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters, which offers long and short-term opportunities for you to mentor a child.

From what I understand, these are serious commitments. There are applications to submit, background checks, maybe even some fingerprinting. But I also understand there are serious rewards. In our first issue we included a story by Eva Schone who told us about her experience as a Big Sister. She said, “It was awkward in the beginning. We had to find the rhythm that was appropriate for this relationship. It took us about half a year.” Later, though, she said,

“The most important part of building my relationship with Courtnie was to figure out how I could assist her – in the context of her life circumstances – most effectively. That takes a little bit of time and getting to know each other. In the beginning you have a set of expectations, but you just don’t know what each child’s situation is going to be. And you’re going to have to work with whatever it is.”

Does this sound like something you could do? To download the story and our first issue, click here.

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One Response

  1. Thanks for your efforts to help connect kids with tutors/mentors. Visit http://www.tutormentorconnection.org and you and your volunteers can find extensive resources to support your work, and to expand your network.

    Dan Bassill
    Tutor/Mentor Connection

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