Mobility from Poverty:  The Impact of Youth Valued in Community

recent high-profle reportRestoring the American Dreamtakes on the challenging question, What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty? It represents the work of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, with member-experts from academia, industry, and think tanks, representing all parts of the political spectrum

The Partnership reviewed research and best practices and also heard from people who have experienced poverty. Site visits were made to multiple cities including Detroit; in fact, an iconic Eastern Market mural fronts the cover of the report (and this Trending article). 

Not surprisingly, “economic success” is a “core principle” of mobility and requires access to good jobs and investment in distressed communities. But the report also identifies two others: “power and autonomy and “being valued in community. Power and autonomy is defined in this context as “a sense of control over one’s life and a chance to make choices and craft a future.” A sense of agency, in other words. 

The third—and perhaps somewhat surprisingprinciple identified by the Partnership has particular resonance for student philanthropy education: 

A third and equally important principle of mobility involves community—engaging with others and being seen as doing something of value for that community. Partnership members… have described this principle as “dignity”…(and) “belonging.” Some refer to this principle as social inclusion. Regardless of what they called it, people in communities across the country conveyed a similar message, and we witnessed the concept first hand during our site visits. We saw how being involved in community, whether in places of worship or secular organizations, and being well regarded by that community conferred meaning and opportunity that an economic measure alone would not capture. (emphasis added) 

As educators, we already have the complex and demanding tasks of preparing students for college and the workplace—foundations for economic mobility. Given this, it is understandable that community engagement may be seen as an “extra.”  But Restoring the American Dream reinforces prior evidence that says that it’s not extra—in fact, engagement is integral to student success, both in school and in life. 

The school day in this standards- and test-driven environment is packed. But simple exercises to build student agency can be built into existing curriculum. 

Learning to Give has free, online, standards-aligned resources to help students build value in community. On the Learning to Give Get Started page, you can easily link to our current #ToteChallenge (for Earth Day, make totes for the community!), short videos, and other ways to explore issues and activities of interest to your students.  

Article written by Mary Rouleau, Learning to Give's 2018 Wayne County Classroom Community Coordinator.