Poverty is a problem in the inner city of Minneapolis, especially for racial minorities. This is painfully obvious when you examine the demographics of high school graduation rates in Minneapolis. Roughly 37 percent of black and Latino students graduate from high school in four years compared to nearly 70 percent of white and Asian students. High school graduation is practically a necessity in present day America, but many kids in Minneapolis just can't seem to finish. The lack of a high school diploma is associated with a host of other problems including juvenile delinquency, violent crime and drug abuse. While it's known that the lack of parental support, resources and positive influences all play major parts in the achievement gap, the proper solution is less clear.
Children living in poverty in the inner cities are faced with situations every day that they are not equipped to handle. How is a child enrolled in elementary school supposed to know what to do when they come home and their parents are drunk, high, or simply absent? How is a child supposed to handle and abusive sibling or bullying in the classroom properly if that kind of behavior is all that they've ever known? And how are they supposed to break out of that cycle and focus on the things that are important, like school and their friends? Urban Ventures Vice President Mark-Peter Lundquist would say they aren't equipped to handle those situations, at least, not on their own. All of Urban Ventures' programs are designed around giving their kids a chance to make something beautiful out of their broken home lives.
"When there isn't parental support, there's a lot of temptation to do drugs, to join gangs; it basically all comes out of hopelessness," remarked Lundquist. "And if you live with hopelessness for a long time you experience a lack of conscience. Through love, support and mentoring we're able to provide them with enough emotional strength to not just cope, but to thrive."
One of the biggest ways Urban Ventures tries to support the kids is through a program called the Hub where once per week, high school students meet with a small group of classmates led by a youth worker. This provides them with a place where they can go to eat a meal and really grow not just academically, but also as young men and women as well. Lundquist spoke of a student in The Hub named David who knew that many kids in the neighborhood weren't going to receive Christmas presents, due to either a lack of funds or a lack of adult care. David decided that this wasn't acceptable, and with the help of Urban Ventures staffers, David sold over $2000 of CityKid Java coffee at his school. He then used the money to purchase and wrap Christmas gifts to give to underprivileged kids around the neighborhood. The truly amazing thing about David's story is the entirety of that holiday season, David had been living in a homeless shelter himself. It's this potential for joy, selflessness and purpose that Urban Ventures seeks to foster in their students.
David could have easily been a statistic, just another inner-city kid to drop out of school and pick-up some bad habits, but the compassionate youth workers and volunteers provided David with the guidance he needed to thrive instead of just survive. These kids aren't impoverished because they're lazy or they're bad kids, they're impoverished because they haven't been given a chance. The cycle generational poverty is a tough thing to overcome, but as Urban Venture's reach grows wider and wider, stories like David's become more and more common. And while generational poverty is still a major problem in Minneapolis, the 1200 kids served annually by Urban Ventures programs like The Hub get a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, taking one more step towards breaking the cycle.
Start to make a difference at urbanventures.org