For years, the prospect of going to college for many Cardozo Middle School students seemed unobtainable. As a community primarily comprised of the working poor, Cardozo Middle School has struggled with many of the academic challenges that cling to low-income communities; low attendance, behavioral issues, and poor academic performance. However, since becoming a Community School, an initiative funded by the United Way of the National Capital Area, Cardozo Middle School has become a shining example as to what can happen when we decide to invest in equal education.
Last year alone, participants in the Cardozo Community School program yielded 100% in classroom attendance and succeeded in improving a whole letter grade or maintaining a grade point average above a C. To advocate for community issues and interests, students in collaboration with the Community Schools established a “Men Can Stop Rape” workshop series, an Anime club and an internal tobacco cessation association.
When you think about the hurdles students face succeeding in school, people underestimate the depth to which poverty holds a student back. From something as simple as having dirty clothes to difficulty paying attention because of experiencing malnutrition and hunger in their classes, poverty has many faces when it comes to inhibiting academic achievement. Consequently, students who live in and around poverty experience an onset of barriers that not only hold them back but prevent the entire community from moving forward.
Cardozo Middle is just one in eleven Community Schools that United Way of the National Capital Area has opened across D.C, Maryland and Virginia. As part of their Community Commitment, United Way NCA is on track to serve 12,000 Title 1 middle school students through these programs transition into high school. It’s at this key developmental age that United Way NCA is connecting low income middle school students with refined skill building, education enrichment courses, and after-school programs that prioritize fitness, heighten communication and empower the community.
Every school encounters different hardships, and every community has its own limitations. That’s why formulating long-term solutions to community issues requires an investment. The Community Schools program, funded by United Way of the National Capital Area, works to accelerate a student’s language and literacy skills, reforms behavioral habits, expands math competency and improves their overall attendance. In giving students more individualized attention in an academic setting, students learn to recognize the value in themselves and their education. Participants in the program report back a heightened interest in reading, an increased immersion in their social lives and a dramatic improvement in their behavioral performance and attendance.
But to address the systemic roots of community issues requires someone who understands them. The Site Coordinator, the Community School’s programmatic manager, sits at the vanguard of the program serving as an ambassador between community issues and the resources that can absolve them. From ensuring a community family has clean drinking water, to helping families update immunization records so their student can attend classes, to taking on the responsibilities of being a role model and a mentor to students; the Site Coordinator is interlaced in bringing the Community Schools Program to life.
It’s through the trusted relationship of the Site Coordinator that students at Cardozo Middle School are able to set goals, seek mentorship and learn to advocate for their needs. The implications for what this means for the community as Cardozo Middle School students enter high school having created a roadmap for their futures is limitless. By empowering communities in need with the resources to be successful, we can provide a means to a better future for all of those in our community.
Join United Way NCA in supporting its community schools program by contributing to the cause. Check here to learn about opportunities to give or volunteer.