Tag Archives: kentucky

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.

A Decline in Enrollment

Emmalena Elementary School is located on State Highway 550 in the western part of Knott County, Kentucky just west of the community of Clear Creek.

“The community of Clear Creek was the site of a 1970s women’s occupation and protest against strip and surface mining, especially the practice that allowed coal operators to tear up private land to reach underground minerals,” explains Renée Kube, Children Incorporated’s Director of U.S. Programs.

Renée is pictured with one of our sponsored children at Emmalena Elementary School.

“Some small, independent operators had opened mines, made quick profits, and then left, leaving the community to cope with damaged land and polluted water.”

“Today the community feels loyalty to the operators who ran good mines but still mourns the loss of good jobs while hoping and looking ahead to the future,” said Renée.

Leaving home to find work

On a trip to Knott County to visit our affiliated project Emmalena Elementary School, Renée met with our volunteer coordinator at the school, Pam.

Pam told Renée that because of the mine closures, parents were forced to leave Clear Creek to find work outside of town. As a result, the school had shown a significant decline in enrollment in recent years.

Of those parents who were able to stay in Clear Creek, some found jobs in the county seat or by commuting to Hazard for work daily. Others are self-employed at a variety of work from fixing cars to cutting wood.

Unfortunately, many of these jobs are low-paying, and the community has a high poverty rate — 89% of students receive free or reduced lunch through the National School Lunch Program.

Pam feels fortunate to have other additional resources to help her find inexpensive items for the many children at her school that are living in poverty.

Shopping for kids in need

Emmalena Elementary School educates 196 children from kindergarten to eighth grade. During their meeting, Pam told Renée that she likes to take advantage of Back-to-School sales in July at stores in nearby Hazard so that she can maximize the number of clothes, shoes, book bags and school supplies she can purchase with funds provided by our sponsors.

Pam makes another big shopping trip in December for winter clothing, including warm outfits, coats and snow boots for sponsored children who would otherwise go without these important items in the cold winter months.

Pam feels fortunate to have other additional resources to help her find inexpensive items for the many children at her school that are living in poverty. One such resource is the Christian Appalachian Project, a warehouse of free overstock, discontinued or imperfect merchandise offered at a low cost. She also works collaboratively with the county extension service and health department.

Gratitude for our sponsors

During her visit, Pam arranged for Renée to meet a mom of two children in our program, Lydia.*  Lydia is a teacher’s aide at Emmalena Elementary School. Her husband is disabled, and they are both hard-pressed to provide for their kids.

“Lydia expressed to me how grateful she was for the help she receives from her children’s sponsors. It makes a massive difference for the whole family,” said Renée.

Renée  also meet a special boy named Michael.* Michael was enrolled in our program last May and is still unsponsored. He is in first grade and likes science.

Michael, his sister and his brother are being raised by their grandmother, who is a homemaker. She is raising them on a limited amount of public assistance that includes kinship care, which gives aid to people who are raising related children, keeping them out of the foster care system.

“Michael’s siblings are currently sponsored through our program. Michael is hoping that he will also have the opportunity to have a sponsor soon because he realizes how much it helps his grandmother and his whole family,” said Renée.

*Names changed to protect the individuals.

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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.

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.

Fitting In with the Crowd

Situated in the hilly rural Eastern Kentucky Coalfield region of Appalachia, Leslie County is an area of stark contrasts. Its breathtaking rugged beauty and veins of coal drew its first residents there more than a century ago; and for generations, coal mining served as a primary source of employment for its residents.

For some students, whether they are sponsored or not, our program not only provides them with basic needs, but it also affords them the chance to feel as though they fit in at school.

With the rapid decline of that industry, however, employment opportunities have drastically diminished, resulting in the need for many families to move away and seek employment elsewhere. Those who remain must endure the daily realities of poverty, including a widespread drug abuse problem that devastates the entire community – not just the users themselves.

Thankfully, students at W.B. Muncy Elementary School have teachers and administrators to provide them with a well-rounded education, as well as support from Children Incorporated sponsors and donors to help them overcome the barriers they face living in poverty. For some of those students, whether they are sponsored or not, our program not only provides them with basic needs, but it also affords them the chance to feel as though they fit in with the other students who aren’t experiencing difficult circumstances.

Meeting Joseph

Helping a child in need will change their life.

Sponsorship often helps children with their self-esteem, as well as provides them with basic needs.

On a trip to Leslie County, Children Incorporated’s U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited with our Volunteer Coordinator at W.B. Muncy Elementary School, Amy, as well as with a few children in our program. Amy explained to Shelley that Children Incorporated helps her to obtain clothing, backpacks, and school supplies for her students, along with other essential items – which is incredibly important for single and unemployed parents, as well as for grandparents who are struggling to get by on a day-to-day basis because they are raising children again.

After meeting with Amy, Shelley had the opportunity to sit and talk with a special student named Joseph*. Joseph is currently unsponsored and on our waiting list. Amy helps him with additional funding that she receives from Children Incorporated’s Shared Hope Fund, which helps to support kids who are waiting for sponsors. When Shelley was first introduced to Joseph, she could see that he had a tough exterior; he sometimes found it difficult to allow himself to smile.

After he returned to class, Amy told Shelley that Joseph harbors a lot of anger because of the situation in which he finds himself: he is being raised by a single dad who doesn’t have a lot of money. Joseph feels like he really stands out from other kids at school. Amy then told Shelley a story about how our program was able to help Joseph to overcome some of those issues he faces.

A hat makes a big difference

A few months prior, Amy realized that Joseph needed new clothes and shoes, because his were worn out. So she invited him to the Family Resource Center so that she could ask him what he wanted and needed. He told her what he could use; but before he left, he leaned in close to Amy and quietly said, “The school is having a ‘Hat Day’ next week, and I don’t have a hat like the other kids. If you could get me a hat, too, I would really appreciate it.”

Thanks to the support he receives, Joseph feels less different from everyone else at his school – and he now holds his head high and smiles more often, because he feels like he fits in.

Amy purchased Joseph’s new clothes, including a hat, over the course of the next few days. When “Hat Day” came around the following week, Joseph made a point of returning to the Resource Center to see Amy; he was wearing his hat and a brand new outfit – as well as a big smile on his face. Joseph said, “I really love my hat. Thank you for remembering that I didn’t have one for today.” Later that day, he returned to the Resource Center once again and told Amy, “You don’t know how much this helps my dad.  We don’t have a whole lot of money, so now he won’t have to worry about getting me clothes and shoes.”

According to Amy, the Children Incorporated program has had a great impact on Joseph’s life; it has really helped him to blossom and feel more confident. Thanks to the support he receives, Joseph feels less different from everyone else at his school – and he now holds his head high and smiles more often, because he feels like he fits in.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

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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.