3 Strategies to Break the Cycle of Poverty for Students and Families

Macon promise

In Paul Tough’s book “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character”, he underscores the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.  How should our educational system reach parents and students who are trying to break the cycle of poverty?   This past year, I had the opportunity to start volunteering with an organization in Macon, GA focusing on helping students succeed in the face of poverty.

Macon Promise is a movement and leadership organization in Macon, GA seeking to help students/families thrive and overcome poverty in 4 key schools.   As we have mentioned in this post, this is a very challenging problem.   The issues related to helping students succeed to high school and beyond are complex.

As I draft this post, I start to reflect upon why this issue moves me so much.   If I reach back to my childhood, I recall some of the people who made the most impact in my life.   My brother Francis and I are very blessed.   We have wonderful parents who gave us 110% to make sure we could succeed in life.   We are not the perfect family.   No family is.   We, however, always knew that our parents loved us.   Mom and Dad always worked very hard to make sure we could go to the best schools and had the best opportunities in life.

I also think about Irene and Jimmy Williams.   Irene and Jimmy were a very kind elderly couple who opened their home to me and my brother.   We always thought of them as our adopted grand parents.   When mom and dad had to work, it was always fun getting to spend the day at their home.    I have very clear memories of learning how to draw, watching Star Trek, building forts, climbing trees, getting frosties, and tons of great childhood memories.   Their kindness and love made a huge impact in our lives that words can’t express.   Irene and Jimmy came from very humble backgrounds… They, however, were generous with their lives.

Why does helping students succeed and breaking the cycle of poverty matter to me?  My short answer is that I have been given a gift that I can never repay to my parents, Irene, Jimmy, and the countless other teachers who helped me become who I am.  Because of this blessing, I feel I need to give back.   I believe that every child needs an Irene or Jimmy.   They need someone who believes in them.    They need someone who loves them.   They need someone who doesn’t care about their background, but chooses to be a good mentor and guide to help them succeed.

What’s is the need in the Macon Promise Neighborhood?

  • In 2011,  it was documented that 1 in 3 people live in poverty in Macon, GA.   At one high school, the graduation rate at one school was 47% .
  • In 2009, Forbes magazine ranked Macon, GA as the 7th poorest city in the US.
  • For more details on the critical needs in MPN,  please read their proposal.

The Hope of Macon Promise Neighborhood

  • Thanks to the leadership of Mercer University and the collaboration of many community partners, change started in the Macon Promise Neighborhood.  I really appreciate the principles driving their work.   They are outlined in this proposal:
    • Mindsets determine students’ ability to learn at a high level of expectation.
    • Risk factors subvert children’s educational success; protective factors increase children’s resilience.
    • When parents are engaged with schools and have an educational plan for their own futures, their children will succeed in school.

From my position as an app developer, I would like to find a way to make a small contribution to help “at risk” students finish high school, find meaningful work, and thrive.   Today, I will be volunteering in a nationwide service project called “HackForChange.”  This service project event will gather together technology professionals and innovators in the government space with hopes of prototyping and deploying small technology solutions that will help our communities.   I hope to contribute a solution around this challenge.

We only have two days to draft our solution.  So,  we will need to be extra focused.   I wanted to ask for your help in this challenge.  Firstly,  please consider filling out this quick two question survey.

Secondly, pray for all the developers and leaders who are participating in this “HackForChange” movement.   Please pray for the leaders of Macon Promise too.   They are a very hard working team in need of your support.   To learn more about their impact and work, please visit http://maconpromise.org and their blog at http://maconpromise.blogspot.com .


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