Tuesday night I had the privilege to attend a community conversation on the achievement gap in Salem, Oregon. The room was packed with more than 80 people. Looking around the room you would have seen Hispanic, African-American, Asian, and Caucasian. You would have seen teens, tweens, young adults, middle-aged and the elderly. You would have seen parents, teachers, community members and business leaders.
All of these individuals came together to discuss solutions to students not achieving equally. To be blunt—it may be obvious that children in lower-income households have a harder time achieving the same as those in higher income households. But is that the problem—money?
Not really. Many successful individuals have worked their way out of poverty. If not money, then what really causes that achievement gap? I think maybe it is the culture of poverty. What effect might this “culture of poverty” have? Might this achievement issue be better addressed by the child learning to be “intellectually curious” and being encouraged to believe in one’s self? Not every parent has been equipped to do this for his or her child. This is often not the parent’s fault; they were born and raised in this same culture of poverty.
So how do we break this cycle? This is where the community can step in to create student success. One practical way individuals can step up is to be mentors. A mentor can make all the difference when creating intellectual curiosity. A mentor can change a life by believing in the student when the parent may not know how. A mentor can help the parent learn how to do this as well.
So my friends, the conclusion I reach is that this is not a problem we can solve with money; this is a problem we solve through giving of ourselves as a community, as mentors to children and parents who are caught in the culture of poverty. If you haven’t already, may I suggest you get involved and try mentoring. The rewards you receive will be far greater than the time you give.