Proof that Education Access is Key Route out of Poverty
As a member of Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI), I am thrilled to report that on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 at 12pm, WRI college students and alums -currently or formerly receiving welfare-will meet on the steps of New York City Hall to celebrate 10 years of success in our on-going quest to secure access to education and training for all, including people receiving welfare. One hundred and sixty-eight WRI students and alums are gathering to honor the pioneering vision of Founding Director, Melinda K. Lackey by sharing the positive impact of education and the need to preserve it for the next generation.
Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI) is a student activist, community leadership training organization located at Hunter College. When Ms. Lackey founded WRI, there were 27,000 students receiving public assistance at CUNY. Ninety percent (90%) of adults receiving welfare were and still are women with children. In 1993, research showed that eighty-eight percent (88%) of women who attain a bachelor's degree move to jobs with a living wage and permanently out of poverty. A new report this month from the Institute for Women's Policy Research(IWPR) confirms, ten years later, that despite the challenging circumstances for low-income students to undertake a college education, higher education "provides the best opportunity--especially for women--to acquire good jobs, with good wages and good benefits." The most striking finding is the ripple effect that higher education creates "beyond the individual sitting in the classroom..." The report goes on the argue that children of college-educated parents show improved grades and study habits, and 80 percent of degree holders indicate increased involvement in their communities. The success stories of WRI students are the proof of recurring findings.
In the past ten years, city policies have made it even more difficult for families to access the education, training and services they need to sustain a family. "Increasing workfare hours is not a realistic solution to move impoverished families out of poverty. Something has to change. We can construct welfare policy that supports families by making education available as a route out of poverty," says Roxanna Henry, Welfare Rights Initiative Legal Advocacy Organizer.
Ana Lemus, a student leader at Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI) reports, "I formerly received welfare and I know that when I lost my job education was the route out of poverty for me and my daughter. Someone with a Bachelor's degree is much more employable than someone who is forced to participate in dead-end workfare assignments." Jeanette Nazaire, a WRI alum testifies that, "The increase in workfare hours not only affected me as a student, but affects my younger brothers too. They might not finish college."
WRI students know that hidden in the shadows of welfare to work programs is the fact that women with children, who are able to find some kind of job and move from welfare, still are not able to lift themselves out of poverty, not by a long shot. "It's not just getting a job, it's creating a career. With a bachelor's degree, I have an opportunity to enhance the prospects of my future and my daughter's," says Ms. Henry. "Welfare policies are not about numbers. They are about people," she adds.