Coalition Program

United Way executive director Jenny Wilson, standing left, and North Lamar Assistant Superintendent Angela Chadwick share information about a program enacted by the youth committee of the Lamar County Homelessness Coalition that connects businesses with school campuses in support of youth living in poverty.

Poverty — a condition of inability to satisfy one’s basic needs in life: food, shelter, clothing and housing.

One in four children in Lamar County lives in poverty, a statistic shared this week at a gathering of business people and educators dedicated to helping those children in our local schools.

The group gathered at Love Civic Center on Wednesday was there to roll out CONNECT, a joint venture between businesses and schools.

The latest program to come out of the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce and the Lamar County Homelessness Coalition, CONNECT has the potential to become the best thing that ever happened for children living in poverty in our community.

The program pairs each school campus in Lamar County with at least two local businesses in support of youth living in poverty. How that partnership plays out will be of interest as a representative from each business and a campus liaison work together to find ways to support students in crisis.

Paul Allen of the Chamber of Commerce said he has searched for a similar program but found none. Which means CONNECT is a one-of-a-kind initiative with the potential of providing a groundbreaking model for other communities to follow.

If effective, the new program could uncover ways to help children from low-income families deal with the stresses of living in poverty.

Research shows children living in poverty feel alienated from society; suffer insecurities because of their socioeconomic status; fear the consequences of their poverty; and endure feelings of powerlessness, according to ChildFund International. They become angry at society’s inability to aid in their struggles.

In addition, research has shown children’s brains develop best when they have less stress. Poverty can create a series of emergencies that trigger stress hormones. These hormones have a dampening effect on brain development, which can lead to an inability to pay attention, to control emotions or to retain information.

I am looking forward to observing this new program to see what kinds of opportunities become available. As Allen said at Wednesday’s meeting, the program is not about money for the campuses but about time spent in finding resources to help individual students and families as needs become apparent.

It will be exciting to watch as people like those present at Wednesday’s meeting put their heads together and come up with unique ways to support our community’s most valuable resource — our children.

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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