Pat Maurer wrote a shocking (at least to me) article that appeared deep inside the Dec. 21 issue of the Review. Entitled “School Age Poverty Increasing in Area,” her article stated that each school district in our county saw an increase in the number of students living at or below poverty levels in 2011 as compared to 2007. While that was not surprising given the economic downturn the state faced, what was shocking were the large percentages of students in each district living IN poverty. The Clare district had 27.6% of its 1,551 students living below the poverty level, an increase from 21.5% in 2007. Farwell had 37.6% of its 1,637, students compared to 24.1% in 2007. For Harrison, 44.5% of its 1,1819 students were at or below the poverty level in 2011. In 2007, the percentage was 30.8%.
In her article, Pat didn’t try to say what those numbers mean to us as a community or perhaps SAY about us as a community, because maybe the increase says we don’t really care if there are nearly 1,900 students out of 5,007 who live in households that are below the poverty level. And maybe that’s because we don’t care or feel it doesn’t concern us. If that is the case, then you probably moved on another section of the paper, like updates on reported crimes within the county (as if the two topics have nothing to do with each other…). Or maybe you figure recent decisions made in Lansing and Washington D.C are going to change everything for the better.
However, if you too were shocked by those numbers or just want to make a difference (maybe a New Year’s resolution), there are plenty of opportunities available. For just as there is no lack of poverty in this county, there is no lack of people and organizations seeking to make a difference and that could use your help–The United Way and the Community Nutrition Network to name just two.
It’s too late for any of us now to do anything about the poverty levels in our schools in 2012, but we can certainly a difference in 2013. At the very least more of us need to try.