Over the years, Children Incorporated has been affiliated with a total of 10 Washington, D.C. public schools. The affiliations began in approximately 2009, when our U.S. Programs Urban Division Director at that time, Ron Carter, sought to expand upon the relationship he had made possible between Children Incorporated and Communities In Schools (CIS) of Richmond.

Being pleased with CIS as a partner, and ready for Children Incorporated to grow to its next urban affiliations, Ron reached out to the Executive Director at Communities In Schools of the Nation’s Capital at that time. Our organization’s first affiliation was at Ferebee-Hope Elementary School, and our organization’s impact has grown from there.

Understanding our capital city

It is ironic that in the richest nation in the world, there are children who are literally growing up in the shadow of the White House, who are living in bitter poverty, and who have never experienced the cultural and educational offerings in the city.

Asjya is pictured with one of our sponsored children.

However, despite the poverty, there is also a huge sense of pride. Many communities have been established for decades and have a strong sense of identity.

Some U.S. cities are divided into districts; others (like New Orleans) have parishes and Washington, D.C. has wards. There are eight wards currently in Washington, D.C. The city is bordered by Maryland to the north, east and west; and Virginia is to its south, on the other side of the landmark Potomac River.

There is also a smaller and lesser-known river named the Anacostia that runs through the city. For decades, the Anacostia River split Ward 7 and Ward 8 from the others. That divide was not only geographic, but economic, too. Ward 7 and 8 have had the highest poverty rates. There are children who have lived their whole lives without crossing the Anacostia River. These two wards also have had higher rates of violence and worse health outcomes.

Changes being made in recent years

However, the city began to redraw its wards based on the 2020 federal census. There are now small “bumps” on the tops of Ward 7 and Ward 8 that expand them north of the river for the first time ever. Ward 8 now includes gentrified areas such as Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront. As The Washington Post stated in 2021, “The end of the days of exclusively east-of-the-river wards is inevitable, a result of a decade of explosive development in some Washington, D.C. neighborhoods and near-stagnation in others that has left the city’s eight wards unbalanced.”

With many neighborhoods becoming increasingly gentrified, there is an increasing inequity between “the haves and the have-nots.” Housing costs are skyrocketing, and the influx of new residents makes parking very difficult. There is still a shortage of grocery stores south of the Anacostia River. Food insecurity and transportation barriers go hand in hand. Additionally, Washington, D.C. does not provide school buses for students. Families must drive, walk or take a city bus. Transportation is a significant barrier for the children, and many absences are related to their ongoing challenges.

Providing regular, consistent support can truly make a difference in children’s well-being and healthy development, and we are seeing that through our affiliations in Washington, D.C.

The child poverty rate in Wards 7 and 8 is over 50%. Children who grow up in poverty are often exposed to high levels of trauma, which can have adverse effects on their development. Adding the stress of the pandemic years made a bad situation worse for impoverished students. Many children saw family members become very ill and even die. They worried what would happen to them. There were extra financial benefits provided, which improved child poverty, but those have now expired.

All these reasons are why the benefits of our sponsorship program are so important. Providing regular, consistent support can truly make a difference in children’s well-being and healthy development, and we are seeing that through our affiliations in Washington, D.C.

Visiting Burrville Elementary School

Children Incorporated’s Assistant Director of U.S. Programs, Kristen Walthall, and I visited our affiliated sites in Washington, D.C. in early 2024. Our first appointment was scheduled for Burrville Elementary School. After stopping for gas near the school, we drove around for some time looking for a place to park. This was complicated by road repairs by the school, with a street blocked off.

We arrived at the school a bit breathless, but excited. We were greeted by the Executive Director of Communities In Schools of the Nation’s Capital, Dr. Rustin Lewis, who had driven across town to welcome us personally. But he had to leave and return to the office immediately. We were also greeted by the Communities In Schools of the Nation’s Capital’s Program Director, Monique, and our volunteer coordinator Asyja, who runs the Children Incorporated sponsorship program at Burrville Elementary School.

To start our visit, Asyja took us on a tour of the school building. It’s an old structure, but it is well maintained. Due to its age there are few windows and thus no natural light, but the faculty has worked hard to make things cheerful with colorful bulletin boards and posters. The hallways are named after universities; Asyja explained to us that the school wants to plant the seed of higher education in the children’s minds from the beginning.

Burrville Elementary School offers a beacon of hope for children in the community.

During our walk, we were introduced to one of our enrolled children, Brooks.* Brooks is seven years old and is in the second grade. He loves playing soccer, practicing rap, and the color red. That’s a good thing, as it matches the school color. Brooks lives with his mother, stepfather, two older sisters, one older brother and one younger brother. His mother makes and sells bead necklaces for a living. His stepfather is currently unemployed. After Asyja sent Brooks back to his classroom, she said this family is one she works with a lot. Brooks and his older brother are enrolled on our sponsorship program. She is working on enrolling the two older sisters as well.

After our tour of the school, we all went to Asyja’s office, where Kris and I got a better idea of how Burrville is able to support children in the community. The school itself serves children in grades PK3 through fifth. (PK3 is prekindergarten for three-year olds. The “regular” prekindergarten is for four-year olds.) According to Asyja, the school offers several supplemental programs for its students. These include Reading Partners, the Joyful Market (a Children Incorporated favorite and past beneficiary of our Hope In Action Fund grants) and a variety of clubs, including a gardening club.

Asyja said her students’ greatest need is clothing. She is doing home visits and knows at least one child who needs a real bed. She will reach out to me or Kris once she gets an estimate on the cost of the bed and request Hope In Action Funds to purchase it. Asyja said she also sees food insecurity and works to address that. The average rent is $1,724 monthly, which means many families are paying a tremendous share of their limited income toward housing. She also said that a lot of Burrville Elementary School families are employed in service jobs (such as fast food), and some work in sales or for the government (such as in the clerical and tech support fields). Almost 30% don’t have cars and take public transportation into the downtown area and its work environs.

Ultimately, Children Incorporated helps provide a foundation that removes barriers and improves the social and emotional challenges that negatively affect our students.

– Asyja, volunteer coordinator

Hearing from Asyja

Upon returning to the Children Incorporated office after our visit to Burrville Elementary, I received the following email from Asyja:

 Approximately 258 students are enrolled at Burrville currently. 92% are African American and 7% Hispanic/Latino. English language learners make up 6% of the student population, 17% of students have an Individualized Education Program and 100% of the students receive free/reduced price meals.

Family engagement is a priority at Burrville. We conduct home visits, set up parent/teacher conferences and communicate with our families consistently. We also host annual events that our families and community members enjoy participating in. These activities include: Family Movie Night, Literacy Night, Fall Festival, Black History Month Programs, Family Game Night and Field Day. Burrville has partnerships with D.C. Scores, Teens Run D.C., Martha’s Table, Raising a Village and Boys Town, as well as Communities In Schools and Children Incorporated.

Homelessness, poor attendance and inadequate resources are the challenges at Burrville that impact the well-being and education of our students. Many of the struggles occur due to a lack of basic essentials and necessities in this high-poverty, low-income environment. Moreover, these challenges contribute to an evolved mental health population that affects the overall behaviors of our youth. Children Incorporated helps by providing additional support and resources to the students and their families to aid in breaking this cycle. Further, these supports and resources can empower our youth to matriculate appropriately through their educational career. Ultimately, Children Incorporated helps provide a foundation that removes barriers and improves the social and emotional challenges that negatively affect our students.

One of our students lost everything in a fire, except the clothes she had on. We were able to provide the student with clothes; she was provided with shirts, pants, socks, underwear, pajamas and a jacket. The family reported that because of the assistance they were able to comfortably finish the school term. Two other students did not have housing and stayed in a hotel for 60 days until they were moved into permanent placement. We were able to provide Christmas gifts for them, along with groceries, all thanks to the support these children receive from Children Incorporated.

***

How do I sponsor a child with Children Incorporated?

You can sponsor a child in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

written by Renee Kube

Renée oversees Children Incorporated’s work in the United States – from the rural southeast and southwest to our urban areas in New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. She works closely with our network of more than 100 volunteer coordinators at each affiliated site. For sixteen years, Renée managed our sites in the Appalachian Region before taking her current role in 2010.

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