New York is an amazing city. It is one of the largest drivers of commerce in our country. And I’ve been privellaged enough to live and work in its economic bubble for my entire life. Most people don’t know that NYC has the poorest congressional district in the country. The South Bronx is home to some 256,544 people living in poverty.
While working on my undergrad at Fordham the irony of going to a great (and expensive) school in the middle of this district wasn’t lost on me. Every time I left campus I was confronted with the hard realities of poverty.
During those years I saw the countless ways that dignity was stripped away from people – from the hours people had to wait in line to get medical attention to trips to the grocery store where families had to debate whether to buy formula for the baby or speciality food for a diabetic parent.
The hardships of poverty have a direct impact on education outcomes.
A national study showed that only 51% of impoverished children will graduate high school. Without these basic credentials it will be hard for them to find employment opportunities that enable them to provide their children better opportunities. The vicious cycle of poverty seems likely to go unbroken.
Schools in the Bronx face intense challenges. I’ve known that for years. But today I heard a stat that shocked me. While meeting with a group of guidance counselors across the street from Fordham I was told that 30-40% of the students in the South Bronx live in transitional housing.
What is transitional housing? It is a term used to broadly define anyone who doesn’t have a consistent home. That could mean anything from sleeping on relative’s couches to living in a homeless shelter. It is to encompass a huge range of situations where students don’t have a stable home.
When trying to solve the challenges confronting our education system you cannot discount the challenges facing students at home. It’s a complex and complicated situation.