“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” Except if you are one of the 21,000 children in the Northern Virginia region living in homes where the household income is under the federal poverty level, approximately $24,000 annually for a family of four. The effects of childhood poverty on a student’s ability to learn in school are devastating and pervasive in a child’s life.
Studies report that low-income parents often spend more time away from their children than their more affluent neighbors because they are juggling multiple jobs, spending significant periods in transit, searching for secure housing or navigating complex public-assistance bureaucracies. As a result, by the time a child in a low-income family reaches age four, s/he will have heard only two words for every seven that a child in a higher-income family has heard. Indeed, research indicates that by the time children from very low-income families enter kindergarten, they are 12-14 months behind in language and pre-reading skills, compared with children in higher-income families, where reading books and engaging in regular conversations with adults help them to build large vocabularies.
At Cornerstones, we aim to combat the barriers to children receiving a great education that will equip them for high school and beyond. Cornerstones operates Laurel Learning Center, which provides comprehensive family services and developmental childcare programs including full-time childcare for infants through pre-school age children; before- and after-school care for school-age children through 6th grade; and full summer programming options. Additionally, Cornerstones works through neighborhood community centers to provide free-of-cost Computer Technology Programs for kids, as well as other academic enrichment clubs, homework help and activities designed to help children become and remain physically active.
Cornerstones also works to tackle the indirect barriers to a child’s ability to learn. We work to help parents find affordable housing in this community to avoid long and expensive commutes that keep them away from their kids after school, and to prevent frequent moves or job changes that interrupt a child’s education. We help our clients financially prepare for the future including match savings accounts which stabilize the family and allow parents to invest in their child’s education. We work to educate our clients on the importance of their children staying in school through high school graduation. We also ensure that kids have the tools that they need to succeed in the classroom; access to nutritious meals at home and during their day; and backpacks and other schools supplies as needed.
As summer draws to a close, you can help make a tangible difference in the lives of children in Fairfax County. Consider donating a backpack for our Annual Back to School Drive or sign up to tutor or mentor a student. These gifts both encourage our students and help them overcome obstacles to receiving the education that they will need to succeed in life.
Early intervention through programs like Laurel Learning Center and afterschool homework help means long-term success for our students. For example, all school age children enrolled at Laurel Learning Center in school year 2014-15 met or exceeded their grade level benchmarks. Laurel alumni also have a 98% rate of high school graduation and many have gone on to college or trade school and started successful careers. Some of the Laurel alumni had such positive experiences that they are compelled to come back to visit, volunteer, or become teachers at the center.
Click here to learn about four-year-old “Jake” who entered Laurel Learning Center while living with his mom at Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Community Shelter. He now knows he can always have hope for a better tomorrow today.
Click here to learn about Laurel Learning Center teachers like Makenzy who creatively meet the specific needs of the children in their care.