The Local Issue
They are experiencing what Dr. Robert D. Putnam describes in his best selling book “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” as the opportunity gap.
The opportunity gap refers to vast and growing differences in opportunities available to poor and well-off children and families nationwide. The expansion of the gap in recent decades is the focus of research work that Dr. Putnam and his Harvard University associates and partners have conducted in communities across the country, including Duluth.
“How we sense our responsibilities to each other is, I think, the underlying deepest cause of this opportunity gap,” says Putnam. “What I’m trying to do is say to people, ‘Think about these kids as your kids, too.’”
Motivated by Putnam’s research, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation has been engaged in one of the largest and most impactful projects in its 34-year history—an initiative to improve opportunities for families and children experiencing poverty in our area called Opportunity Rising: Our promise to our kids.
We’ve organized, done research and have found three key areas in which to focus this community wide initiative.
Families lack resources and support systems across a broad range of needs and services including: transportation, childcare, out-of-school programming, education, housing, health care, job training, financial stability and mental health services.
“We all want the same things for our kids. A nice place to live and the chance for our kids to fully participate in the same education opportunities and activities as their friends.”
There is a significant difference in school readiness found among youth in the Twin Ports—a clear reflection of the opportunity gap starting at the earliest levels of education.
The Twin Ports, like many communities nationwide, has witnessed an overall diminished sense of community that does not encourage individuals, organizations and businesses to see all children and families as “our kids” and “our neighbors” and to find ways to provide support.
Putnam has urged us to take action, saying: “Minnesota and Wisconsin have a history, actually, on issues just like this. This is the place out of which solutions to social problems often have come first. I’d like to nudge you to get in the game and begin thinking about how this problem can be fixed, first here but also nationwide.”
OUR PROMISE TO ALL OUR KIDS
When we rise for our kids, we all rise. So I promise to:
Recognize the growing gap between those with opportunity and those without
Initiate action to effect change, one life at a time
Share stories and resources with my family, neighbors and community
Empower all kids to have equal opportunities to live up to their potential, independent of place and race
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