Education is one of the strategies for breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness in our country. I grew up near Baltimore, MD, moved to Worcester, MA for college, and have since made a life for myself in New Bedford, MA. All three of these cities struggle with poverty, homelessness, and failing public school systems. With graduation rates below and poverty rates above the national average, the connection between a good education and ending the cycle of poverty became clear to me.
While “college for all” vs. “career education” is a debate nowhere near conclusion, it is important to recognize and celebrate the successes of both educational opportunities.
This past June, at Worcester Technical High School, President Obama made his only commencement speech. With six out of ten students categorized as underprivileged and a bad reputation to overcome, this high school turned itself around. Worcester Technical High School did this by creating a more personalized education program using a learning community model and 24 distinct technical programs. This shift in education styles was matched by the amazing support the school got from state and local governments, the school department and the Worcester community itself. These groups rallied around the mission to create a better vocational school in Worcester and raised money to build a new and better facility. With a brand new facility, the ability to purchase better and more up-to-date teaching equipment, the school administration was able to lift up and empower its student body and the community as a whole.
NBC News Interviewer Rehema Ellis spoke with Sheila Harrity, the principal of Worcester Technical High School, and Alberto M. Carvalho, the Superintendent of the Miami-Dade Public Schools, another county that is beginning to turn around various suffering vocational and traditional public schools.
Harrity and Carvalho both spoke about designing curriculum that matches what the workforce needs in the twenty first century. “Giving students the opportunity and skillset so if students choose to go directly into the world of work, they have the credentials to do so, and if they choose to go onto technical school or a four year degree they have the rigor and relevance to do so.”
Giving students the tools, knowledge, and confidence to choose the next step may just be one of the solutions to breaking the cycle of poverty in low-income communities.
Harrity emphasizes, “We can empower our students through education and training to have better lives….There’s nothing more worthwhile than that.”
I think we can all agree with that goal.
Image via U.S. Department of Education