Randy Bowman knows the pressures of poverty. He was one of four children raised by a single mother in Dallas. Bowman has purchased land to build a dormitory facility for Dallas children who attend public schools “as a way to insulate kids from some of the chaotic and traumatic forces that can quickly derail academics.”
Children still would attend their local schools but spend the week living in communal residence halls with structured support to help them grow academically and socially, wrote Eva-Marie Ayala of the Dallas News. “Getting help with homework, having someone teach you how to take notes and even just getting a full night’s sleep are often privileges that kids in poverty don’t have,” she wrote.
“The 71 percent of the day that you spend at home overwhelms the 29 percent that you spend at school,” Bowman said. He believes that even good after-school programs aren’t enough because the ravages and challenges of poverty don’t organize themselves to attack during a two-hour period after school. Rather, they attack around the clock, overnight, he said.
Bowman estimates it would cost about $52,000 per student to offer the program during the start-up year, then drop to about $16,000 the next year and even further after that. He’s looking for donations to cover the expense.
Randy Bowman’s mom was his hero. She is now his inspiration as he works to address the crippling pressures of poverty on some Dallas students. Bowman wants to strengthen what James Davison Hunter and Ryan S. Olson, editors of The Content of Their Character a publication of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, call the “social and moral ecology” of a community.
They explain: “When social institutions—whether the family, peer relationships, youth organizations, the internet, religious congregations, entertainment, or popular culture—cluster together, they form a larger ecosystem of powerful cultural influences.”
Bowman is working with other civic leaders, including the president of Paul Quinn College, Micheal Sorrell, and Stephen Brown, a former teacher who is pastor of the Greater Bethlehem Baptist Church. Students from the college would provide tutoring, support, and some overnight supervision. And neighborhood grandparents would help get the children ready for school each day.
Housing and social stability are important foundations for the social ecology of a community—and a boarding dormitory is just one way to tackle the problem. CultureFeed has also highlighted the work of an Atlanta landlord who is serving low-income families in the apartments where they currently live. For tips on what educators can do to help combat the effects of poverty on education, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has developed a guide.