By Logan Philon | January 28th, 2019
Last week we discussed the Piedmont Renewal Network’s (PRN) educational model, largely based off off the University of Southern California’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) program. This week, we want to provide context by situating that model within the larger plan of action.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is the hardest place to escape child poverty in the United States, with the exception of a few Indian reservations.¹ Our interest in USC’s NAI model begins and ends with its ability to reverse that alarming statistic. The PRN is largely comprised of educators. Their purpose for working on this team, however, is not simply to educate; it is to leverage education as a tool in the creation of opportunity for our low income students. Again, there is no silver bullet in the fight against poverty, but if there was it would be education. As such we do not think of the PRN as an educational nonprofit, but as a project dedicated to fostering economic mobility in Winston-Salem by means of education. Individuals in the United States who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher are 600% less likely to live in poverty than those who did not graduate high school.² As we explained in our last blog, the NAI educational model we are recreating maintains a 99% college attendance rate, with over 70% college completion. In other words, we are looking towards a future in which 70% of our students are 600% less likely to live in poverty because of their time in our program. It’s hard not to get goosebumps imagining the possibilities. We want to imagine those possibilities with you this week by sharing some of our goals for this project:
“Individuals in the United States who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher are 600% less likely to live in poverty than those who did not graduate high school.”
Near Term Goals – The Next 18 Months
- Over the course of the next six months, the PRN is working to bring the College Lift Initiative (our version of USC’s NAI program) to maturation, reflecting the full scope of services offered by NAI. While we have already re-created the most central aspects of the NAI program (Weekend Academy, Family Accompaniment) there are indispensable aspects of the program that have yet to be established (after school tutoring, social emotional support systems, social and cultural capital enrichment programs, etc.). Though the It will take years for the College Lift Initiative years to reproduce NAI’s efficacy and results, we will be off to an excellent start having constructed the basic framework.
- Even in these early days, the PRN is aiming to see positive outcomes from its programing. Within the next 18 months, third party experts will be working with us to collect data and analyze results. Although the benefits of this programming are borne out over the course of nearly a decade, we believe that appreciable academic improvement can be documented by the end of the 2019 – 2020 school year.
- The establishment of a broad based coalition. The “Network” in Piedmont Renewal Network represents our effort to foster as many connections in the community as possible. Indeed, partnership with other agencies and organizations is not a mere desire for the PRN, it is a indispensible need. We cannot provide the level of quality, wraparound support which we have promised our families without deep collaboration with other local agencies. From local universities to the faith community, from the school district to local businesses, there is no success for the Piedmont Renewal Network in the absence of dynamic partnerships.
Mid Range Goals – The Next 6 to 10 Years
- In the next decade, our goal is to see our students graduate high school and attend college at the same rates of students in USC’s NAI program (100% high school graduation, 99% college attendance).
- We plan to add many more scholarship opportunities for students enrolled in our program over the coming years. A growing number of available scholarships will enable the PRN to expand its cohort sizes, serving more and more families as time goes on. Eventually, we hope to see incoming classes of students counted not in dozens, but in hundreds.
- As these cohort sizes grow, we expect to see a substantial positive impact in our student’s schools. Imagine the effect that having hundreds of students enrolled in a program that produces higher GPAs and 100% high school graduation could have on some of Winston-Salem’s struggling schools. As average school performance rises, middle-class parents who have options will begin to leave their children in these schools, enhancing the performance and environment of the school further still. This transcendent ripple effect has been documented in USC’s NAI program, and we look forward to witnessing such transformations here in Winston-Salem as well.³
Long Term Goals – 2030 to 2040
- After decades of strategically bolstering Winston-Salem’s struggling schools as described above, we believe we will help create a more equitable district, with greater equality of opportunity for groups of students who are currently being left behind. It will be far from perfect, but if we can duplicate the impact of USC’s NAI program in multiple schools in this district, something extraordinary will have been accomplished.
- We want to see children born in Winston-Salem and raised in its struggling schools compete for the best jobs on the market. Right now, Winston-Salem is a city where the poor tend to stay poor. That statistic will change as thousands of Winston-Salem’s neediest residents graduate college and realize their potential.
- Our greatest impact will not be on students we serve directly today, but on their children in the years to come. Through the College Lift Initiative, we believe that we can help many of ours students beat the odds and escape poverty as adults. However, no matter how much we do for our students, we cannot mitigate all of the effects of being raised in a low income situation. The physical, psychological, and emotional toll of poverty will be felt by many of our students for years to come, regardless of their future socioeconomic status. Fortunately, the scourge of poverty can truly come to an end in the lives of our student’s future children. A powerful example of this is a recent study which found that African American children are 860% less likely to live in poverty if their parents/parent graduated from college as opposed to dropping out of high school.⁴ Compared to children living in poverty, middle class children display greater emotional health, academic success, and overall well being.⁵ While lifting children out of poverty is a worthy cause, ensuring that children who have yet to be born never have to know poverty is a far more compelling end.
There is so much work yet to be done, and we are just getting started. Not surprisingly, things have not always gone according to plan for the PRN; we have experienced unexpected setbacks as well as unexpected good fortune. As the months turn into years and dreams turn into reality, we expect just about everything to change but our long term vision. There is never a day that goes by that the Piedmont Renewal Network is not moving forward, and the vision that we have shared with you this week is what we are moving toward.
¹ Chetty, Raj, and Nathaniel Hendren. “Data from Chetty and Hendren (2015): Causal Effects, Mobility Estimates and Covariates by County, CZ and Birth Cohort.” Equality of Opportunity, Harvard University. 2015, http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/index.php/data
² DeNavas-Walt, Carmen and Bernadette D. Proctor, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014 U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Reports P60-252, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2015. Accessed 1/26/2019.
³ Ron Mackovich. “Foshay Learning Center Provides More First Year USC Students than Any Other High School,” USC News. September 28th, 2017.https://news.usc.edu/128499/foshay-learning-center-provides -more-first-year-usc-students-than-any-other-high-school/.
⁴ “The Condition of Education: Characteristics of Children’s Families.” National Center for Education Statistics. Last Modified May 2018. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cce.asp.
⁵ John Iceland, Poverty in America: A Handbook, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2013) 23.