LYNCHBURG, Va. – City leaders say Lynchburg has the worst poverty numbers in the state, aside from Richmond. Combating the issue has been a big topic of discussion, as city leaders launched the "poverty to progress" initiative.
This year the city of Lynchburg received a $117,000 grant to battle the 25 percent poverty rate. “One of the main focuses that we're trying to look in on is the mass meshing of citizens who need work with the available jobs and job creation as well,” John Hughes IV, the assistant manager for Lynchburg, said.
Although the money won’t be used until fiscal year 2018 as part of Lynchburg’s "from poverty to progress" initative, school leaders are doing what they can now. “We like to think that we're in partnership with the city of Lynchburg to really address our concerns,” Ethel Reeves, director of engagement of equity and opportunity for Lynchburg City Schools, said.
New teachers with Lynchburg City Schools must go through a poverty simulation. “They're given different situations. So we may have someone who's disabled, one family member working... That kind of thing,” Reeves said.
It's the fourth year city schools have put on the poverty simulation. “For the new teachers we get different responses. We really do. It's really an 'aha' moment for many,” Reeves said.
Each teacher is put in the shoes of a child. In the scenario, as a family, they experience financial struggle and challenges. “Many times we will put requirements on them to turn in money for field trips. And mom may not get paid until two weeks later, and we've set a deadline that really doesn't work for that family," Reeves said.
School officials say it's not about picking up behavioral signs in children who live in poverty.
Instead, Lynchburg city educators work to make sure classrooms aren't divided between the haves and have-nots.