Education is a key driver of opportunity. A postsecondary degree – not a high school diploma – is the necessary credential for transforming limitations into opportunity and improved life outcomes.
Yet too many young people lack access to vital educational resources and extracurricular support, both in school and out of school, which are critical for charting a path to, and through, higher education. These are the people we empower.
The education crisis is an economic crisis where intergenerational poverty has a devastating impact on academic and life outcomes. Students growing up in low-income communities have a higher rate of absenteeism, lower achievement levels, and are more likely to drop out of school. The result is a vicious circle where poverty exacerbates structural impediments to learning and stymies the promise of education as a driver of opportunity and independence.
In this context, empowering young people from under-resourced backgrounds with participation in intensive out-of-school time (OST) resources and extracurricular mentorship is critical to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Participation in OST experiences strengthens their commitment to, and interest in, education – a necessary foundation for staying in school and earning a postsecondary degree.
The education crisis is an opportunity crisis. While test scores show significant divergence between social and economic strata, this “achievement gap” is the logical outcome of under-resourced students having limited access to the very opportunities needed to fuel and sustain their academic achievement. This opportunity gap means that children growing up in disadvantaged communities are unlikely to reach their full academic and life potential due to inequitable access to in-school and out-of-school-time (OST) resources. Now more than ever, access to OST opportunities is critical for these young people and their families.
The education crisis is a health crisis. Students from under-served communities face unique health challenges – physical, nutritional, and mental-emotional. Research points to these health factors being strongly connected to, and correlated with, academic achievement.
Helping these students access and adopt healthy lifestyles while building mental strength, resilience, and agency is essential to supporting their academic and life paths.
The education crisis is a policy crisis. Today, education policy focuses narrowly on systemic weaknesses and inequalities in public schools. Yet this approach misses important factors such as family history, mental health, culture, entrenched beliefs about the value of education, and the unconscious bias that first-generation college bound students will face in their postsecondary years.
The reality is that student success depends on a combination of in-school learning supplemented by access to critical OST resources and opportunities that address this complexity in students’ lives.
Underserved students fail to progress in public school systems at alarming and disproportionate rates. This is the consequence of a consistent, cumulative, and often subtle array of assaults on their lives. As adults, these young people become part of a persistent underclass, cut off from the benefits of an education and caught in an intergenerational cycle of poverty that is virtually impossible to escape.
Schools alone cannot meet the learning needs of our children, particularly those from disenfranchised communities. As a result, there is growing interest in identifying out-of-school opportunities that complement in-school learning and result in improved academic achievement and developmental outcomes.