Initiative aims to close gap
For about 1-in-4 children growing up in Superior, poverty is an everyday reality — one that can diminish opportunity.
"Outcomes for children growing up in poor families are very, very different today than outcomes 40 or 50 years ago," said Holly Sampson, executive director of the Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation. "Kids 40 or 50 years ago could probably be involved in sports activities in school but today ... it's something all kids have to pay for. If you can't afford a goalie uniform for hockey, you're just not going to be able to be there anymore."
Changing that reality for youth in Superior is the goal behind a public awareness campaign to be launched Monday with a city dinner.
"Opportunity Rising: Our Promise to All Our Kids" is the theme of the event that runs 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Northern Lights Elementary School, 1201 N. 28th St., sponsored by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.
"We really want to inspire our community to take action for our kids," Sampson said.
Participants will share a meal of soup and bread, and speakers will unveil the campaign to narrow the opportunity gap and differences in life opportunities available to rich and poor children and families. Community members will be asked to sign a pledge supporting work to improve opportunities for all children and families.
In Superior, 25.8 percent of children — 1,038 children — live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That percentage is higher than the Wisconsin average of 15 percent and the national average of 18 percent.
"It's really an obstacle for our community to have so many children that are experiencing poverty," said Jim Zastrow, chairman of the Community Foundation board who has been very involved in the initiative. "It's just not acceptable."
Opportunity Rising is the product of more than two years of work by the Community Foundation and its Twin Ports partners to improve outcomes for all children. It began in 2015, after the Community Foundation invited Dr. Robert D. Putnam of Harvard University to the Twin Ports to give the keynote address at the organization's annual celebration. Putnam is the author of "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis," which examined the opportunity gap through research in communities across the nation.
The chasm threatens the ability of communities and the nation to solve problems, seize opportunities and achieve goals for economic growth and quality living.
"We took the information that was published by Dr. Putnam ... and we used it as our guide to think about ways we can close the opportunity gap in Superior and Duluth," Zastrow said. He said the goal of Monday's dinner is to make the community aware of the challenges and start working on ways to improve the community by closing the gap.
People will be able to learn about opportunities to help close the gap, Sampson said. She said one of the speakers will talk about his experience mentoring eight boys.
"There's a huge amount of research that demonstrates that one additional caring adult in a child's life can open up their life to opportunities that they may not even envision today," Sampson said.
To RSVP for the Opportunity Rising event at Northern Lights Elementary School, call (218) 726-0232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, go to opportunityrising.org.