Recent graduation rates released by the state of California show that the city of Lompoc graduated 87.3 percent of their seniors. While this number is substantially higher than the statewide rate of 80.8 and is only statistically different from the previous year’s 87.5 percent, community activists and educators alike are troubled by what they perceive to be a greater crisis: the number of children leaving the school system before they even begin high school. —
“By the time kids get to high school age, they have already made the decision of whether or not they are going to continue,” said B. Williams, founder and president of Solutions For People, a local non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk children avoid the streets and stay in school. “Those graduation rates would look a lot different if they tracked students through all twelve grades.”
Since being founded in 1989, Solutions For People has been working directly with children, teenagers and their families in a number of ways to encourage kids to stay in school and focus on their goals. Though they have a variety of programs they offer, SFP has also been instrumental in helping other programs in the area, most notably by offering scholarships for kids to attend programs offered by Gateway Education Services.
Founded by members of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Gateway offers year-round educational services. “We believe all students will succeed if we open the doors closed to them, and create the gateway to learning and achievement,” the education service declares. This vision statement includes summer programs that help struggling kids with their academics and provides an alternative to spending time on the streets with little supervision.
Many of the local children do so at the expense of Solutions For People, which now faces its own financing struggles, thanks to the ongoing effects of recessionary living. “Our great recession started back in 1986,” Williams said. “Every year is a struggle, but with the future of our kids at stake, it’s one we must continue.”
Williams is reaching out through unconventional means to give people the chance to give back. He has started a crowdsource funding campaign on the popular GoFundMe website. While the long term goal is to build and develop the Cultural Youth Academy and Family Support Center, the immediate need is to guarantee ongoing funding for programs they and Gateway offer to the at-risk youth of the area.
The educational benefits of today resonate long into the children’s future. A recent graph released by the U.S. Department of Labor shows the average earning potential of a person with a bachelor’s degree to be over $600 a week more than someone without a high school diploma. “That is a difference a family will feel for generations,” Williams said, “and it is one we try to make every day for every child.”
For more information about Solutions For People and to contribute to their fundraising, please visit the following website: www.gofundme.com/solutionsforpeople
**Jack Terry is a freelance writer who focuses on grass roots community efforts and their place in transforming neighborhoods and society.
Release ID: 85751