Guest Blog: Education…a way out of poverty

Next week is an exciting time in our family’s life because our oldest son heads to kindergarten. In preparing for this exciting journey, my wife and I are becoming increasingly aware of the high costs of education, and that is magnified as we look into the future and see 12 years of public school, and hopefully four or more years of college or other higher education.

The elementary school our son will attend has about 85% of its students that qualify for free or reduced lunches, indicating that many families are forced to choose between school supplies, food, and other basic necessities. I find myself wondering about these families that are struggling economically and possibly living their life going from one crisis to the next. Do they have the ability to plan for their child’s future? Can they let go of a crisis related to work, housing, or finances long enough to think and plan for their kids going to college one day? Without that focus on education and upward mobility, many might be destined to perpetuate a cycle of economic poverty.

So that all kids can have a good start to the school year, CSL is once again hosting our Back to School Fairs and providing backpacks, school supplies, tennis shoes, and other educational resources to low-income students and their families to make sure they are prepared the first day of school. If a young learner doesn’t have the right supplies, how can we expect them to perform well academically? Parents could spend more than $100 in supplies alone, but thanks to CSL’s strategic leveraging of resources, we can provide a backpack with a majority of needed supplies for $25 or less. CSL will be distributing more than 3,000 backpacks with supplies to kids in the Independence, Fort Osage, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, and Oak Grove school districts.

Again in 2016, Tennies for Kids is stepping up to make sure kids have a new pair of shoes, and they’ve raised enough support in monetary donations and donated new shoes to ensure more than 2,000 kids can look good and feel good on their first day of school!


CSL’s commitment to education doesn’t stop at the public school level. Hopefully you caught our recent news that CSL supported 15 Independence women in an endeavor to further their education. These women, for many unique reasons, were caught in perpetual low-income jobs and/or had very little career possibilities. Through a partnership with the City of Independence, 12 Blocks West, LINC, Truman Medical Centers, Metropolitan Community Colleges, and Full Employment Council (FEC), we were able to fully fund an educational experience over 10 weeks that yielded a state-certified CNA license, and a digital literacy certificate. As of July 25, 2016, 11 or the 15 women started as CNAs with Truman Medical Centers-Lakewood making $13.07 per hour with full benefits; a wage with benefits that can provide good support to a family in an in-demand field with the opportunity for stackable certifications. We call this program “Bridges to Career Opportunities” (BCO) because it’s designed to meet people where they’re at and provide a real solution to employment challenges. We’re looking forward to starting BCOs in other in-demand fields and helping more families achieve real economic stability.


Education, whether pre-kindergarten or post-high school is vital to helping CSL meet its mission. Thanks for your support, both now and in the future, as we invest in programs that provide pathways out of poverty.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally posted on August 4, 2016 by Community Services League (CSL). Certified Radon partnered with CSL for their “Project Backpack” initiative to collect school supplies for local kids in need.

Doug Cowan

CEO, Community Services League

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