I believe that communities have the power, potential and the will to lift themselves out of poverty. In East Palo Alto, a poverty-afflicted community in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was not uncommon to hear that the high school drop out rate was 60%. But for that salient statistic, we can look at the converse and realize that in East Palo Alto, 40% of the kids were NOT dropping out of high school. Who are these kids and families? Amid a turbulent and poverty-afflicted community, why and how were these students successful?
When I worked at a college access nonprofit organization, I saw firsthand the reasons why these kids and families were successful. They leveraged the social capital that was around them. They had a loving teacher or nonprofit program manager who pushed them. They had a trailblazing mother or cousin who led the way for the entire family. It’s people talking to people, working together to find solutions for each other. Through this critical network we leveraged every single connection to ensure that our students were on a path to personal success.
I believe that this network can be scaled up to entire communities. What if we built the connective tissue in communities so that people could access this human-powered network at a larger scale. What if all families, community members, educators, nonprofit workers, business people, and leaders took ownership and responsibility for the future success of all children.
The good news is that hundreds of nonprofits, community-based organizations and innovative schools and initiatives across the country have already made progress and action. There is a movement happening in the education sector towards rebuilding the system from the inside out and from the outside in. Although we’ve got a lot of new and innovative initiatives happening all across the country, many of these initiatives work in isolation, don’t collaborate, or don’t communicate — they’re still acting like an isolationist school principal, thinking about “her school” and “her students.”
We can change this.
Our vision is to create a human-centered platform in low-income communities across the country that will help to strengthen and innovate our school system from the ground level, rather than from the top-down.
The first phase of the movement will start at the ground level to address poverty-related issues that plague students and families from low-income communities. We will build a one-stop shop of all of the resources in the community in low-income schools. It’ll have a “Wikipedia” for who to go to for whatever issue kids and families are going through. We will staff them with heart-driven, innovative college students so that teachers can focus on teaching. There are a hundred more details about how this will work, and if you want I can even share the business plan with you.
I’m Rey Faustino, and I’m currently pursuing his masters at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government to understand the national and international context for education policy. Previously, I worked for five years at BUILD, a national college access nonprofit organization, where I designed and deployed business incubators and helped BUILD grow nationally. I have over nine years of experience in project management for youth-serving organizations and four years of management experience, most recently as a site director at BUILD. It was through my experience working with youth that really inspired me to find solutions that solve the root issues of poverty.
And while starting a nonprofit organization is daunting, I cannot sit by any longer and wait for the system to fix itself. The time for action has come, and I’m incredibly excited to launch Connective Possibilities this year and roll out programs in 2012.
Just like I believe that a community has to work together to improve schools, I believe that I can’t launch this organization by myself, which is why I am working with (and always looking for) talented volunteers across the country to support the launch in lots of different ways. A huge part of launching an organization is raising startup funding. I could have first gone to foundations and applied for grants, but I wholeheartedly believe that since this should be a community-driven organization, the financial investment should come from our community first.
Asking friends and family for money is tough, especially in this economy. So why should you support us? Ideally, you're sold on the philosophy behind this new initiative. Or perhaps you realize that because there are so many more kids and families struggling through the recession, there’s a greater need for this kind of service. Maybe you're excited about being on the ground level of an exciting movement. Or perhaps you believe in my leadership, passion and drive to make some positive change in this world.
Regardless, I hope you can support us. Any amount would be hugely helpful, and I promise that I'll make your $25 bucks go a long way! Every little bit helps.
I hope you can support our growing movement to help families fight poverty and transform our nation's schools.