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How Poverty Impacts Academic Achievement

In our work at Children Incorporated, we often talk about the importance of getting an education. For children in our program, we believe education is the key to finding jobs upon graduation that will enable them to work toward breaking the cycle of poverty from which they come.

Unfortunately, statistics show that children growing up in impoverished households often perform less well academically than their peers.

The challenges of living below the poverty line

Jackie is pictured here with one of our sponsored children at Beaver Creek Elementary School.

As reported by the non-profit Operation Warm’s website, “Children living above the poverty line are entering kindergarten more prepared than those below it. High-income families are able to put more money towards their children’s cognitive development than those living in poverty.”

“Parents with low incomes, on average, have less time to read to their children, no-funds for pre-school, and less stable home environments. The difference in preparation tends to persist through elementary and high school.”

Beavers Are Achievers

According to our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, this achievement gap is prevalent in some of our affiliated schools in Eastern Kentucky, and specifically at Beaver Creek Elementary School in Knott County. Located in the small community of Topmost, families of children enrolled at Beaver Creek Elementary face rampant poverty. They struggle to overcome the common socioeconomic problems that plague Knott County such as adult illiteracy, school absenteeism, child obesity and substance abuse.

“There is no question that poverty can impact academic achievement in ways ranging from lack of books in the home to transportation barriers that make it difficult to travel to cultural and historic sites,” stated Renée. 

While visiting Beaver Creek Elementary School, Renée met with our volunteer coordinator Jackie, who Renée describes as incredibly devoted to helping her students.

During their meeting, Jackie explained that although the school motto is “Beavers Are Achievers!” the children are struggling academically as they aim to reach their goals. The school’s test scores lag behind state averages, reaching only the 51st percentile in reading and just the 38th percentile in math in state ranking.

“There is no question that poverty can impact academic achievement in ways ranging from lack of books in the home to transportation barriers that make it difficult to travel to cultural and historic sites,” stated Renée. 

Making kids feel loved

Often times while visiting our affiliated projects, Renée visits with parents of children enrolled in our program.

Jackie told Renée that one of the biggest challenges in the community — and the county as a whole — is coping with drug addiction and the lack of treatment options for it. The fallout affects many children, resulting in those who are raised by grandparents or other family members, or those who still live at home with their parents, but are being neglected and raise themselves.

Jackie feels fortunate that a local church brings food to the school’s Resource Center for her weekend Backpack Feeding Program. She says that the Children Incorporated sponsorship program is vital in helping with clothing, shoes and school supplies throughout the year. Jackie also values how sponsors make her students feel special and let them know that someone
cares for them.

Meeting two special parents

After taking a tour of the building and grounds, Jackie was happy to show Renée the Family Resource Center where she had asked two of her parents, Raven and Scottie, to thank our organization on behalf of all the parents of sponsored children.

While meeting with Raven and Scottie, Renée could tell they were both very dedicated to their children.

“Raven is a homemaker. Scottie was unemployed for a long time but has recently gotten a job at a small, local non-profit community center. The pay is meager. They told me that our sponsorship program has meant so much to their little girls, and that it warms their hearts to see the excitement their sponsors bring to their children,” said Renée.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

The Hardworking Families of Eastern Kentucky

The Commonwealth of Kentucky comprises five primary geographical regions. Children Incorporated’s outreach is in the eastern third of the state known as the Cumberland Plateau region.

Many young boys and girls of this community whose families have suffered without steady employment go without meals on the weekends or shiver in the cold at night without heat in their homes during the harsh Appalachian winter.

As a part of the Appalachian Mountain and Plateau region of the United States, the Cumberland Plateau is characterized by high elevations, mountainous terrain, ridges and deep and narrow hollows. Over the last 30 years, our U.S. Division has focused on working in this region due to its historically high poverty rate.

On a trip to visit our affiliated projects in this area of the country where we support kids, Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube and U.S. Projects Specialist Shelley Oxenham met with our volunteer coordinators and sponsored children in Knott County, Leslie County and Perry County. During their visits, they both had a chance to learn more about how these counties — and the families that reside in them — have been affected by poverty.

High unemployment for the Cumberland Plateau

The Cumberland Plateau has been home to generations of hardworking coal miners and close-knit families. With the collapse of the coal industry — due to automation, cheaper foreign markets and a decline in demand — this region’s unemployment rates have skyrocketed.

Our sponsored children in Kentucky are receiving the support and care that they need to help them so they can get an education.

Many young boys and girls of this community whose families have suffered without steady employment go without meals on the weekends or shiver in the cold at night without heat in their homes during the harsh Appalachian winter.

A history of Eastern Kentucky

Until the mid-20th century, Kentucky was considered an agricultural state — in fact, more than half the state is still farmland. Principal crops include corn, soybeans, hay and tobacco. Several of the counties in the upper portion of the Cumberland Plateau region were not historically coal-mining areas — instead, their economies revolved around agriculture, timber and fishing.

However, the coal producing counties in the lower portion of the Cumberland Plateau have suffered from the decline of the coal industry due to higher mechanization and lower demand.

Stories from their travels

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing stories from our affiliated projects in Knott County, Leslie County and Perry County. Thanks to our sponsors and donors, Renée and Shelley found that children, although living in poverty, are receiving the support and care that they need to help them so they can get an education.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

55 Years of Helping Children in Need

In 1964, the average cost of a new home in the United States was $13,050. Postage stamps were 5 cents each, and a gallon of gasoline cost just 25 cents more than that. One could buy a loaf of bread for less than a quarter, and a ticket to see one of the latest theatrical blockbusters — Goldfinger or Mary Poppins — was $1.25.

Reports from those early days indicate that funds raised for and provided by Children Incorporated — the organization started by Mrs. Wood — were life-changing.

The Ford Motor Company introduced its iconic Mustang with a suggested retail price of just $2,368, and a young boxer then known as Cassius Clay won the Boxing World Heavyweight Championship against Sonny Liston. Additionally, four young men from Liverpool, England —collectively known as The Beatles — took the world by storm, at one point holding down the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100 record chart.


A legend of her own

In the midst of all of this, a young woman named Jean Clarke Wood started a small nonprofit organization out of her home in Richmond, Virginia to improve the lives of children who often went hungry and without their most basic needs met.

Mrs. Wood contacted friends she had met through previous employment, and with the help of her philanthropist father, she began a child sponsorship program consisting of just 95 youngsters in poverty-stricken Guatemala.

Mrs. Wood visited our projects around the world for decades as the founder of Children Incorporated.

Reports from those early days indicate that funds raised for and provided by Children Incorporated — the organization started by Mrs. Wood — were life-changing.

Hungry children were fed. Children who had been wearing threadbare pants and shirts and shoes with holes in the soles were outfitted with sturdy clothing. Young people, who had gone without paper, pencils and necessary schoolbooks were provided with them.

Standing the test of time

Fifty-five years later, the work of Children Incorporated is still changing lives. Through our child sponsorship program, many individualized needs are met daily as our network of nearly 300 volunteer coordinators worldwide seek out and identify those things that the children they serve need most to succeed in school and life.

Our Hope in Action Fund assists children, families and communities with everything from replacing items lost in house fires and natural disasters to building schools, dormitories, gymnasiums and housing units. Our Higher Education Fund allows qualified students to attend colleges, universities and to take vocational classes.

Fifty-five years later, the work of Children Incorporated is still changing lives.

Our skills training programs give young people the opportunity to learn a trade they can use to support themselves and their families while giving back to their communities.

Changing lives all over the world

In these ways and many others, Children Incorporated has reached, touched and changed the lives of approximately 300,000 children and their families over the last fifty-five years. Our dedication to improving lives and providing education, hope and opportunity is as strong —if not stronger — than ever.

We always strive for transparency and integrity in how we use the funds entrusted to us. We honor the fact that we have such high ratings among the main charitable monitoring groups — 4 Out of 4 Stars from Charity Navigator and a Grade “A” rating from Charity Watch, among others — because we respect our donors immensely. They are our partners in all that we do, and we owe them nothing less than our best.


The need still exists today

New homes now cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Postage stamps and gallons of gasoline are each currently ten times more expensive than they were in 1964, and tickets to popular movies now run between $12 and $16 nationwide. A loaf of bread now goes for around $4.00, and Cassius Clay — later known as Mohammed Ali — passed away three years ago.

Ford is still making the Mustang, though the list price is now approximately $35,000 for a new one, an increase of a whopping 1475 percent! Two of the Beatles now survive, each approaching 80 years of age, and the Queen of England has knighted both.

Many things have changed since 1964, yet the needs that exist in the world — for food, clothing, school supplies and other essentials — remain as real and constant as ever. Children Incorporated is still working to meet as many of those needs as possible.

Our wonderful sponsors and contributors make our work possible today, just as they did when Children Incorporated began in 1964, and for that, we are extremely grateful.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD WITH CHILDREN INCORPORATED?

You can sponsor a child with Children Incorporated 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 that is available for sponsorship.

Limited Housing for Students in Hazard

Perry County Central High School is located in the city of Hazard in Perry County in the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield. Hazard, once a nineteenth-century settlement with a booming coal mining community, is nestled in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. The geographic isolation of Perry County has led to deep-rooted preservation of this region’s rich culture; but this has also contributed to economic stagnation over the years.

Families that do not have steady or sufficient incomes often find themselves without adequate housing.

Poverty, drug abuse, and a lack of health insurance are just a few of the problems that this part of Kentucky faces, and they are due to limited employment opportunities and the dwindling coal market. Though many Hazard families struggle, life for some has started to improve, as Perry County has taken steps to incite new economic growth. Yet one major issue still plagues low-income families: a lack of availability of affordable housing.

Students without homes

sponsor a child in kentucky

Hazard has very few low-income apartments for families in the community.

Founded in 1995 as the result of the consolidation of two other local high schools, our affiliated project Perry County Central High School is a large school with an enrollment of around 900 students. 72 percent of the students there qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). On a visit to the school, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Tina. Tina told Shelley that she feels she is perfect for her job because she grew up very poor in a large family with thirteen siblings. She, therefore, understands the issues that many of the families in the community are dealing with when it comes to living in poverty.

Tina explained to Shelley that at Perry County Central High School, there is not much of a middle class; as Tina described it, “There is no in-between – you either have money or you don’t.” Families that do not have steady or sufficient incomes often find themselves without adequate housing. As a result, there is a large homeless population among the students at the school.

A very long wait list

According to Tina, Hazard has very few low-income apartments for families in the community. There are about 150 of these apartments in the whole town, so the waiting list to get in is very long. This means that many families have no choice but to find temporary housing arrangements, which is not ideal for students who require stability while they’re attending school.

The students who Tina considers to be homeless are not necessarily living on the streets or in shelters; some of them are staying on couches at friends’ houses, or staying with teachers or relatives. Currently, the high school has six students who are living in a homeless shelter. Tina says that at the end of the day, even some students who do have homes to go to often beg to go home with friends or teachers, because their home life is unstable – or even unsafe.

Currently, the high school has six students who are living in a homeless shelter.

A lack of transportation

Another great area of need for the students of Perry County Central High School is transportation. Many students want to work part-time jobs. In these cases, school buses can be re-routed to drop them off at work after school – but then they have no way to get home. Students often end up walking home, which can be dangerous and exhausting for them.

Transportation is also an issue for students who want to attend the local college, Hazard Community and Technical College, to get a jump-start on higher education courses. There is a transportation service through the college that picks students up and drops them off every day, but it costs $5.00 a day – or approximately $100.00 per month. Most students cannot afford this service. Tina wishes that students who want to go to college in the area could be provided with free transportation.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Dressing the Part of a Professional

Buckhorn School is located in Perry County in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field. This region is known for its lumber and coal industries, which sustained the people of this beautiful, very rural and isolated part of Appalachia for generations.  Unfortunately, however, those industries are now waning, and there are few businesses in the area today. High unemployment and transportation problems are also major setbacks for most residents.

Just as Judy does, the school administration recognizes the importance of preparing kids with the tools they need to succeed, too.

Founded in 1902, Buckhorn School has a dedicated staff of teachers and administrators that have worked hard to create a nurturing environment where every student has the opportunity to obtain a quality education. This is especially valuable for students whose families are living in poverty.

As the only kindergarten through twelfth-grade school in Perry County, Buckhorn School has an enrollment of approximately 200 students. Our sponsorship program helps to provide children there with basic needs throughout the year. For many of Buckhorn’s high school students, support from sponsors means that they are receiving quality professional clothing and shoes that they may use for future job interviews.

Shopping for themselves

sponsoring a child changes their life.

Judy, who is pictured here with Shelley Oxenham, encourages her students to do their best.

While visiting Buckhorn School, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with Judy, the school’s Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) Coordinator and Children Incorporated Volunteer Coordinator. Judy has worked at the school in various positions for twenty years, and she has been the FRYSC Coordinator there since October of 2017.

During their meeting, Judy explained to Shelley that the Children Incorporated program has allowed her to purchase clothes and shoes for sponsored children, which has been especially helpful for her high school students, who otherwise might never have new outfits to wear. Since they are among the older students in our sponsorship program, instead of shopping for them, Judy meets the high school-aged sponsored kids at a local clothing store and lets them pick out their own clothes and shoes. While shopping, Judy encourages them to choose items that they may wear not only to school, but also to professional settings when they are seeking employment opportunities after they graduate.

“Professional Day” for students

Judy explained to Shelley that she feels that preparing seniors for obtaining employment after graduation is about more than just wearing the right clothes. Just as Judy does, the school administration recognizes the importance of preparing kids with the tools they need to succeed, too. Every year, the school hosts a “Professional Day” where seniors are asked to wear their most professional outfit to school, and they are given tips on how to dress appropriately in their business attire. The seniors also receive help creating their resumes, they learn how to search for jobs online, and they carry out practice interviews so that they may feel more confident in pursuing employment on their own.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Focusing on Character Education

Although our affiliated project Dorton Elementary School in Pike County, Kentucky is an older school that has been around since 1929, the staff and administrators there have implemented progressive tactics to ensure that our sponsored and unsponsored children are receiving a well-rounded education that includes learning valuable ethical lessons. On a trip to Pike County to visit with our Volunteer Coordinator Alisa, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, was told about the school’s efforts to not only teach children academics, but to also incorporate character education.

“Students spend much of their young lives in classrooms. This time in school is an opportunity to explain and reinforce the core values upon which character is formed.”

What is character education?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Character education teaches the habits of thought and deed that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities and nations.”

“Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society.

“Students spend much of their young lives in classrooms. This time in school is an opportunity to explain and reinforce the core values upon which character is formed.”

Thanks to Alisa and the Family Resource Center, Dorton Elementary School has made a commitment to implement character education while students are young, and oftentimes in need of guidance as they develop. For Alisa, who receives very little help to support children living in poverty outside of our sponsorship program, character education allows her to have an impact on students that will help them grow, because they might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about these important topics.   

Beyond academics

While they were meeting together, Alisa described to Renée exactly how she conducts her character education courses. She explained that many children at the school come from very poor homes. Their parents are often uneducated or absent from their children’s lives due to the rising drug problem in the area; so they aren’t around to teach them valuable ethical lessons.

In order to address these issues, Alisa runs small groups for her elementary students to discuss good manners, kindness, and proper study habits. For the older children in the upper grades, topics such as puberty and bullying are addressed. Alisa also works on drug awareness programs throughout the school year. She hosts a luau in the gym, with a DJ, food, the game cornhole, ping-pong, and other games so that children not only learn about good habits for everyday life, but they also have the chance to put good habits into practice in a fun and safe environment.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.