Lydia Kay ’13
Hartford has often been described as a city of pockets. These pockets are filled with many different types of people: banks and big-time financial companies, wealthy middle-class families, and on the other end of the spectrum, immense poverty. The existence of the latter is what many don’t know about Connecticut’s capital and was something I soon found out my freshman year. One of the education classes I took had a mandatory community engagement component to it; I walked 15 minutes once a week to McDonough Elementary School and worked inside of a first-grade classroom, and it was there that I witnessed firsthand how Hartford’s poverty directly affects public school education and students’ overall potential.
Hartford’s unemployment rate is 16.9%, considerably higher than the state’s average of 9.3%, while the percentage of Hartford residents that have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher stays at a mere 12.3%. This is compared to the statewide 38.2% of residents who have gone to college. These striking results demonstrate how deeply rooted the problems that plague Connecticut, and more specifically Hartford, are in education. As a direct result of the minimal education Hartford residents receive, crime and poverty rates increase. Dropout rates in Hartford are far above the statewide average, and with more people on the streets unable to maintain a stable job due to their lack of education, crime increases and the overall quality of life decreases.
These facts are undeniable and expose the realities that impede on the success of the Hartford public school system. This idea that so much poverty and crime exists outside of our Trinity bubble is a scary concept to come to terms with, and one that many people go their four years without recognizing. However, without understanding the problem, how can we ever work together to move forward to combat it? Isn’t it our responsibility, as human beings, to make sure that others get the opportunity to attain a quality education no matter where they grow up? Numerous student groups on campus are involved with Hartford schools and youth in some way, and all of it is important. However, we need to do more. The achievement gap continues to exist and hold back promising children, and this affects not just the future of Hartford but our entire nation.
The problem is pressing, yet it is not without its solutions. Teach For America is one organization that is combating the achievement gap with its long-term goal, where “one day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”
Currently, there are 10,000 corps members reaching 750,000 students across the nation in 46 different regions. TFA continues to expand into new regions that suffer from a widened achievement gap in an attempt to have the greatest impact possible.
As TFA expands, we see the future get brighter and more promising for students from all backgrounds, regardless of socio-economic status. We see the need for passionate and motivated individuals to get involved in the transformation that TFA and other dedicated education reformers have been working hard to achieve in places just outside of Trinity. The response to this call to action can take form in various ways: if you are an underclassmen, become apart of programs outside of Trinity that deal directly with Hartford because it is full of culture, life, and promise. If you are upperclassmen, I encourage you to apply to Teach For America if you are looking for a way to make a truly powerful and meaningful impact on our neighboring community.