Thursday, September 3, 2015

Poverty Conference Coming to LETU

I've been thinking about poverty this week.  The struggle is a daily routine for many of our campus neighbors.  In the 70 years LETU has been in existence, our society has advanced in many ways.  Think of how the technology of today compares to 1946!  Yet, when it comes to poverty, has our society really made any progress?

Poverty steals hope.  It robs this and the next generation of a brighter future. And poverty engenders violence.  Right here in Longview, we read headlines of increasing violence and shootings in our community. It is a complex problem but one important key to combat poverty is education. 

This week, we've been planning our part in an upcoming conference.  LeTourneau University is proud to be one of the sponsors of the Junior League of Longview's October 15 Poverty Conference, featuring Dr. Geoffrey Canada, who will speak on "The Crisis Facing Our Youth: What Adults and Communities Can Do to Save Our Children."

An educator, author and social activist, Canada is renowned for his work in education in Harlem, where poverty strikes deep.  He knows poverty personally.  He grew up in the inner city.  New York's South Bronx district was his home, as the third of four sons being raised by a single mom.  In his mid-teenage years, she sent him to live with his grandparents to get out of the inner city.  Reports say he understood his calling at an early age.

Canada went on to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology from Bowdoin College and a master's in education from Harvard Graduate School of Education.  He has been prominently featured in the award-winning 2010 documentary on education titled "Waiting for Superman."  He has also been featured on TED talks and on the CBS News' 60 Minutes for the revolution in education he has begun in Harlem, New York, which is called the Harlem Children's Zone to increase high school and college graduation rates among students there by providing social, medical and educational services. 

The impact of his school has grown from a neighborhood to nearly 100 square blocks, reaching an estimated 10,000 inner city students, providing hope and a future.  His school has a 95% college matriculation rate. Fortune Magazine named him in 2014 among the World's 50 Greatest Leaders.

He is quoted as saying that these inner city children succeed because they get what middle-class and upper middle-class students get:  safety, structure, academic enrichment, cultural activity and adults who love them and are prepared to help them succeed.

The Poverty Conference is for anyone who has concerns about how poverty and crime are affecting our area, from educators and church members, to business leaders and elected officials, to parents, friends and community volunteers.  Canada will speak in the morning, with breakout sessions in the afternoon, on topics including community revitalization, economic impact and local opportunities for engagement.  Some of our own LETU professors will be involved in leading some of those sessions.

LeTourneau University has a stake and a part to play in the well-being of the Longview community.  I hope you will encourage those you know to attend.  For more information and to register for the conference, visit thepovertyconference.org.