For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be... (Isaiah 55:10). How are people watered? What are the things that nurture people in order that they sprout -- not just grow but flourish and bloom? When we think of education we may immediately think of becoming proficient in a subject, gaining a skill that is required to meet a challenge or even the process by which we as students learned. But these thoughts are too limiting and sterile. They do not give us Isaiah’s expansive view of nourishment and growth when describing God’s fertile creative process. Education is at its root a word that means to “bring forth what is within or to bring out potential.” Our faith which informs every aspect of our lives imparts this “midwife-ing” quality to the education process.
Education is one of the greatest gifts we enjoy. It is the most common predictor of stable employment and good wages. In New Jersey almost 33% of adults with below poverty incomes did not graduate from high school and another 37 % had no education beyond high school. With the benefits of an education come better health and nutrition and these translate to a better start for the next generation. And yet, since we have different starting places and life experiences, not everyone reaps these benefits in the same way.
And this is where the “watering” comes in. Extra time and attention in large and small ways can have amazing effects. Students in some of the most high-poverty districts have blown away the statistics and the stereotypes. While only a small percentage of Newark students go to college, there are schools that achieve a rate of over 95%. One-on-one tutoring, exposure to arts, and the passions of adult learners have helped to stimulate growth in exponential ways. Learning is a lifelong process. It is never too late to be the giver or the receiver, the giver of seed or the sower. Sometimes bringing out someone else’s potential is what is meant to be brought forth in us.
“If I didn’t attend this program I don’t know where I’d be; certainly not improving my education. Now I’ve come back to help kids who are where I was… Working with the kids gives me enjoyment that is unexplainable. I know I can help at least one child do better and be a better person in everything they do.”
For research reports and other info related to poverty:
NJ Poverty Research Institute
Kids Count Census Data
For general Information on children in NJ and advocacy:
Association for Children of New Jersey