Combining education, services to fight poverty

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Six-and-a-half years ago, after having served for eight years as pastor at Williams Grove Baptist Church in southeast Raleigh, Kirby Jones was frustrated at continuing to see children from the congregation involved in “all the bad things so typical of inner-city communities,” including dropping out of school, getting into trouble, even going to jail.

Concluding that education would be the best solution to “actually bring children out of the cycle of generational poverty,” Jones says, he launched the Daniel Center for Math and Science, a nonprofit that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Today, the Daniel Center operates a licensed child-care center that serves 31 children ages five to 12 in space leased from Williams Grove Baptist Church, and a program for 12 teens that operates in space donated from Edenton Street United Methodist Church and provides academic tutoring, visits to college campuses, job-shadowing, and connections with community leaders.

The Daniel Center also is part of a group of seven nonprofits that for the past year has been developing a collaborative effort to help families lift themselves out of poverty.

Known as the Wake Collaborative, the group recently received a $7,000 grant from Triangle Community Foundation to support a plan to create a pre-kindergarten classroom at the Daniel Center that would serve 18 children, and to provide “wraparound” services to serve those student and their families.

Linda Nunnallee, executive director of StepUp Ministry Raleigh, one of the partner agencies in the Collaborative, says poverty affects not only individuals and families but also the entire community.

The poverty rate in Raleigh nearly doubled between 2000 and 2012, a pace that was third-fastest in the U.S., she said.

In the area for the 27610 Zip Code, which includes the Daniel Center, she said, the number of children living in poverty had grown 46 percent since 2008, and one in three households with children live in poverty.

Poverty means “poor health outcomes, high crime rates, high unemployment, failing academic performance,” Nunnallee said at an event in March, when five partnerships competed for a $25,000 grant from Triangle Community Foundation.

As one of five the five semifinalists, from among more than 50 that submitted proposals in response to a request for ideas for innovative, collaborative solutions to community problems, the Wake Collaborative received $7,000.

The Collaborative aims to provide a “seamless pipeline of early care and education from birth to fifth grade,” Nunnallee said.

Each family would work with a case manager and be connected to a coordinated system of supportive services so it was “actively engaged in their child’s future,” she said.

Kirby says a key goal will be to support families and their children throughout their education, and to expand to serve more children and families.

“The end game for teens,” he says, “is to see them not just graduate from high school, but be successfully enrolled in a two-year or four-year university.”

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