The importance of "Generation"

A few weeks ago, Generation Hope’s Program Manager Caroline Griswold and I had the privilege of attending a seminar presented by CLASP (Center for Law and Social Policy) that was being hosted at NPR Headquarters in Washington, DC.  CLASP is an organization that seeks to cultivate policies that positively affect low-income children, individuals, and families.  It is often described as an “organization solely focused on social justice.”

The forum, “Two Generation Approach to Poverty,” focused on the fact that policies that affect both the parents (mothers specifically) and children at the same time, can be more effective in eradicating the cycle of poverty than single generation policies.  Instead of creating law, welfare programs, and adopting political agendas that focus on one population of people, creating policy that uplifts and improves the quality of life for an entire family will have better and sustained benefits.

The forum had an impressive panel of leaders. Marisol Bello, a national reporter from USA TODAY, led the way in hosting and asking thought-provoking questions.  The panel consisted of Olivia Golden (the Executive director of CLASP), Vincent Gray (the current Mayor of DC), Dr. Donald Hernandez (a sociologist professor who had contributed a bulk of great research to the panel), Dr. Gail Mellow (President of LaGuardia Community College), and Juan Salgado (President and CEO of Instituo de Progreso Latino).  

            A majority of the discussion centered on education.  Though there is value to programs that encourage young mothers and fathers in low-income settings to go back to school, these programs are only addressing two specific populations of people.  What about the educational attainment of their children?  If programs help young parents with their educational attainment, their children must be part of the package deal - but why? 

            Dr. Hernandez’s study showed that the earlier children are in school, the higher chances they have of graduating on time from high school and going off getting their college degrees.  Moreover, because education is a key tool to accessing upward social mobility and financial stability in the US, there are huge benefits for a family when every member of it was in school.

Addressing poverty eradication requires looking at the big picture of things but holding value to the smallest parts.  Helping young parents in low-income settings get their degrees is important, but helping the smallest members of a family do well in school is just as critical. True impact comes from addressing the educational attainment of the mother, father, and child collectively.

Similar to what the CLASP forum discussed, we at Generation Hope address more than one area of a teen parent's life when they are going to college.  Generation Hope sees that financial barriers faced by teen parents may prevent them from going back to school, but there is more that goes into a successful college career than financial ability.  Founder and CEO Nicole Lynn Lewis knew from her personal experience with teen pregnancy that emotional support is just as important and crucial for college completion.  This is why, along with our scholarship program, we match each of our Scholars with a mentor in the community that will stay with them throughout their college career -- cheering them on while offering support and guidance. 

As championed in this forum, we are beginning to explore opportunities to enrich the educational pursuits of the children of our Scholars. We know that our work is successful because of our two-pronged approach -- emotional and financial support -- and we recognize the opportunity that we have to engage the next generation.  Feminist and social activist Courtney Martin writes that the best social activists are able to “…study the unique texture of bark on a single tree while still seeing the entire landscape of the forest.”  Our approach views the bark of a single tree while taking into account the entire surrounding forest.   

-Charlotte Mabon, Generation Hope Program Intern