Education is key to a stronger Houston

By Cathe Dykstra

Education is critical for advancement in society. Beyond reading comprehension and basic math, it includes developing life skills, interacting with peers and superiors, problem-solving and countless other competencies needed to find success in the workplace and life. Our lives, and often, careers, are heavily shaped by education, from pre-kindergarten through college-age years.

Unfortunately, postsecondary education doesn’t seem reachable for many due to skyrocketing costs, family obligations, or myriad other social barriers. Far too many students in the U.S. never consider college or trade schools as an option. Nearly 25% of Americans who live below the poverty line don’t have a high school diploma, and another 22% don’t have a college degree.

Sadly, this issue is further exacerbated in Houston, where in 2018, the poverty rate was 20% — well above the national average and Houston had the second largest number of newlypoor neighborhoods, just behind Detroit.

Education and poverty rates are inextricably linked. To make a tangible, positive change in our communities, education is key to unlocking potential. In Houston this means supporting those in need with the opportunities and resources necessary to pursue a postsecondary education, whether that’s a college degree, technical training or an apprenticeship that offers credentials through work-based learning. These post-secondary opportunities lead to livable-wage careers that pay dividends for generations to come.

Recognizing this tremendous need in Houston, Family Scholar House (FSH) is bringing this vital support to Houston through the construction of our new campus, Manson Place for Parent Scholars. While the campus, which offers affordable housing in Houston’s Third Ward, will break ground this summer and open in 2024, pre-residential services are already available to anyone interested in seeking support to realize their career goals.

Funding from The MolinaCares Accord, in collaboration with Molina Healthcare of Texas, as part of MolinaCares for a Healthy Texas, is enabling FSH’s launch in Houston, including the hiring and training of staff, providing emergency assistance for an initial 130 families enrolled in the program and developing essential community partnerships and collaborations.

FSH has a track record of success using education and social support as tools to end cycles of poverty. Thus far, FSH participants have earned a total of nearly 650 degrees and 99% of residential participants have exited the program and found stable housing; another 81% have found stable employment, with others continuing their education in graduate studies while working part time.

The results don’t come as a surprise. We expect the same outcomes from our participants and encourage them to be their very bestfor themselves and their families. To make that possible, FSH provides participants coaches and advocates, a health and wellness coach, life-skills programming for all ages and support for emergency needs.

With wrap-around services and support, single moms and dads are free to pursue the better life they’ve imagined for their families — something we all share, no matter our age, income level or background. Because of partners like MolinaCares, Family Scholar House is able to expand this help to Houston families, while giving them the opportunities and resources necessary to make their goals a reality.

We appreciate the warm welcome weve received from Mayor Turner, Council Member Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, ReWard Third Ward CDC and local educational institutions and community organizations. Family Scholar House is looking forward to collaborating together to empower low-income families and lift up the community as a whole.

Cathe Dykstra is the Chief Possibility Officer, President and CEO of Family Scholar House, based in Louisville, Kentucky. To get involved or become a Family Scholar House program participant, please call (281) 549-8681 or visit familyscholarhouse.org.