Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend is the President and CEO of Philadelphia Youth Network. PYN is a partner of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions.
It’s been 25 years since the General Assembly declared October 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Poverty is a multifaceted issue that spans across the globe, and affects many families in the United States, with census data indicating that 40.6 million people live in poverty.
While that number has declined since 2015, some of our largest cities including Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles struggle with poverty. In Philadelphia, we see this struggle firsthand. While we watch our city’s skyline and national profile continue to grow, we see it isn’t growing for everyone, at least not at the same rate. Despite Philadelphia’s economic growth, our city simultaneously holds the highest rate of deep poverty of the 10 largest U.S. cities.
Poverty is a real and complex problem in our nation, and has severe implications for many of our youth and young adults. We know that now more than ever, education and employment are two of the most important and effective pathways to solving it. Ensuring youth and young adults obtain a high school diploma or equivalent and move into a post-secondary opportunity sets the stage for long-term success.
But the work doesn’t stop there. A secondary or post-secondary credential is an important doorway to a career, but our youth need access to all of the tools required to open doors. Access to employment opportunities at a young age allows them to gain valuable pathways to career opportunities and begin important skill building that is foundational to entering the workplace.
The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) brings partners together to connect education and employment as a coordinated strategy that builds solutions that truly combat poverty. We don’t work alone, because we know it takes collective expertise and action to create sustainable impact and we know that poverty is not isolated to Philadelphia.
PYN leverages our expertise as well as national partnerships to replicate effective strategies in other cities to combat poverty on a national level. While we work with various stakeholders, we understand that poverty is an intergenerational issue and we need everyone’s help to support young people in developing valuable skills that will ensure future generations transcend poverty.
You can make a difference in a young person’s life by being a caring adult, someone who provides guidance, advice and support. Be there to help open doors of opportunity so that our youth gain access to quality education and employment experiences that will make an impact and help them reach their full potential. Share your knowledge and help build their networking skills by connecting them to influential champions in your circle.
Even more: you can consider hiring a young person at your workplace. You’ll find that they can bring creativity, new energy and an eagerness to learn. If you don’t know how to begin, PYN has talented staff to support employers who want to invest in their future talent.
We know how essential it is to build social capital to navigate complex systems and climb career ladders. If we are going to break the cycle of poverty, young people need to have access to all the tools to create a new future.
We see our young people’s potential and talent and are committed to addressing the many barriers that impede their progress. We ask you as members of our community to help make more opportunities possible for our young people, not only in recognition of October 17, but every day to end poverty.