Why does Atlanta rank worst in income inequality in the United States? According to the latest Bloomberg Analysis, Atlanta “takes the crown” as the city with the greatest income disparity. How could this be when Atlanta is one of the top cities when it comes to growth, new businesses and several Fortune 500 companies? Atlanta seems to be the place of opportunity, but in fact 1 out of 4 people sit at the poverty rate.
This statistic is disheartening because we know that being born into poverty makes a child more susceptible to live in poverty for the rest of his or her life. That child is set up for failure of repeating a cycle of insufficiency. There’s a greater chance of poor academic ability, bad behavior and failing mental and physical health. There’s less opportunities available within impoverished communities and seemingly bad situations turn out to be the norm.
We can change these disparities by chipping away at those problems and by giving children a source of skills and knowledge. It’s important to start at the very beginning. What foundation are we laying down for our elementary school students? Are we giving them all the necessary tools to be successful before they enter middle school? Once a child enters high school, are we preparing them for the real world? Students should have the opportunity to take advantage of skills in technology and development, healthcare, innovation and entrepreneurship. This is a start to giving our students the skills they need to work at a Fortune 500 company. With these skills we can teach kids in poverty that with hard work and an education they don’t have to work low-level jobs for the rest of their lives. There is hope and a path in higher education to reach a level of success that was once unseen and unheard.
Just this year we supported our high school alumni with over 10,000 dollars going towards college tuition and expenses. We even drove a few students to college hundreds of miles away. We do this because we understand that after graduation, life’s obstacles are still a heavy burden for those who live in poverty and financial, physical and family barriers don’t magically disappear. Students in college still deal with lack of food and clothing-and some even need help to get back home during the school breaks. We don’t want to lose the kids who we’ve helped graduate high school, when we can help them through a tough time in college. This time is imperative. Completing college and gaining necessary work experiences are the next critical steps in removing the cycles of poverty.
This is why Communities In Schools of Atlanta is necessary. Our mission is to change the trajectory of students’ lives in Atlanta. I support our mission by going around to the 65 schools that we serve. The inspiration I can give to kids when speaking at career fairs and one-on-one sessions is important. I see the spark in students’ eyes when they realize that they have options and don’t have to be a product of their environment.