GUEST BLOGGER: Brenda Lyle, Founder and Executive Director, Family Learning Center
For over 33 years, I have worked with low-income and minority children and their families at the Family Learning Center in Boulder, Colorado. I founded this nonprofit to provide pathways to economic sustainability, positive early childhood and youth development, and health and wellness skills for families with children living at or below poverty level.
Although much of the Boulder population is white and above the average Colorado and US household income, 17% of families live in poverty. Many are from minority populations: African-American, Hispanic, and Native American. Their children lag behind their white peers. Some of the challenges facing poor and minority children include lack of mastery of skills beginning in kindergarten, which accumulate from grade to grade, leaving the children farther and farther behind.
The only way to combat this problem is from within their cultures, families, and communities, working in a sustainable cycle of cradle to career. We address the whole family, with programs for educational mastery, cultural identity, health and wellness, and economic and business skill development. Pride in cultural identity is essential to success for the entire family. Mastery of skills promotes self-esteem among children and their families. Knowing they have a chance to succeed and contribute to the community by pursuing education and careers not only stops the poverty cycle, but also sets an example for other families. That way, children can see that being poor or a minority does not mean they cannot succeed and thrive. And the model works – 100% of our children graduate high school; 95% go on to college. Their families achieve economic and family stability – and a strong cultural pride and identity too!