There is no question a correlation exists between poverty and opportunity. However, what that correlation looks like depends on whom you ask. For some, poverty should not exist because everyone has the same opportunity. After all there are plenty of examples of individuals who have “pulled themselves up from their own bootstraps.” Yet others point to the lack of opportunity as the very reason why the cycle of poverty continues.
Regardless of what you believe, we know for a fact that children in poverty get fewer opportunities than their middle and upper class peers:
- Fewer opportunities to travel
- Fewer opportunities to explore and experience different careers
- Fewer opportunities to engage in experiential dialogue
- Fewer opportunities to participate in before and after school curricular and non-curricular programs
- Fewer opportunities to make relevant connections between what they have personally experienced and what they are actually learning
We can spend our time debating whether those in poverty can climb out on their own or we can spend our time collaborating on solutions to this growing problem in our country. I believe society has a responsibility to identify where the opportunity gaps exist. Ideally, our communities would work together to use existing resources to bridge those gaps. I also believe that the school system is a valuable partner in that effort. My work with Bright Futures (BrightFuturesUSA.org) has taught me that an important piece of our work is to develop those collaborative partnerships so we can create opportunities for children that don’t currently exist.
Breaking the cycle of poverty is one of the greatest challenges of our time. However, I believe fully in the collective impact of communities with the courage to come together to solve complex problems. To fail, or worse yet, to not try to overcome this challenge not only puts many of our kids in danger of being marginalized, but also puts our nation at serious risk as well.