FLOC is celebrating a milestone this year: fifty years of serving disenfranchised youth in Washington, DC. This is a milestone that few organizations reach and FLOC owes much of this success to those who came before us and our own community. Our students and families have always been on the forefront of what we do.
When Reverend Gordon Cosby came back from the march in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, he asked his congregation the difficult question: “What will be our Selma?” In FLOC’s beginnings, they gathered support of their churches and the community to shut down Junior Village, a warehouse for 900 abandoned children. FLOC and its partners arranged viable schooling and living alternatives for these children, and shut Junior Village down in 1973. FLOC’s early leaders also founded DC’s first Child Advocacy Center and co-founded the Consortium for Child Welfare, a city-wide collaborative of 16 foster care and adoption agencies.
From the mid-1970s through the 1990s, FLOC continued to embrace a variety of child and family services and served as an incubator for developing programs.
One of these was Hope and a Home, a transitional housing program that helped parents create nurturing and stable homes within the caring and loving support of a community. In 2005, Hope and a Home incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3) agency. FLOC also was one of the founding members of the Healthy Families Initiative, and its program remains a strong part of Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care.
As other nonprofit collaborations and public agencies emerged to address the community’s needs, FLOC asked those we served what they needed for the community to thrive. FLOC reevaluated its mission and decided, in 2005-2006, to focus on educational programming as the most effective way to help young people achieve a positive future. While the refocused mission is relatively young, FLOC’s educational programs have deep roots. The Neighborhood Tutoring Program was founded in 1997, the Outdoor Education Center in 1971, and the forerunner of FLOC’s Scholars Program in 1999.
One of the civil rights movement’s earliest initiatives was challenging inequality in educational opportunities for African-Americans. Today, the majority of low-income children of color do not receive the quality education they deserve. One wonders what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would say about this. As a man of hope, he would probably speak optimistically about our youth and rebuke the idea that some children lack the capacity to learn. Every student can learn. The primary goal of FLOC is to ensure that all students — regardless of race, ethnicity, or neighborhood — receive the support they need to achieve their dreams.
Fifty years is a long time in the life of an organization. This city has changed a lot in that time. But through it all, FLOC remains focused on one thing: all the children of our community are equally important. Yet too many young people are left struggling to find opportunities to unlock their potential. We can’t stop at the 600 students we serve today. We have to reach more students and teach them these vital skills. We have to organize and empower all of our stakeholders to harness the strength of the communities we
serve. With them, we believe we can transform this city.
Starting this year, we will add new tutoring programs at partner sites and introduce new cohorts of students to our proven college access program. Next year, 150 new students will receive our support. By the 2017-2018 school year, we will open a community-based center east of the river so that traditionally underserved students can access our high-quality programs close to home. This growth will continue until at least 1,200 students are served directly by FLOC. But that’s not enough.
We know that meaningful and lasting solutions come from the concerted efforts
of like-minded partners. We will work to align our resources and interests with other organizations to take collective action, to create a network of support reaching any family in need of educational services. Not only will more students participate in our programs; more students will participate in more high-quality programs all across this city.
We recognize that the ultimate goal of our work is to empower the children and families we serve. We will stand side by side with our families, joining them in their call to demand the services their children need. We will work tirelessly with them to transform our community.
Over the next three years, we intend to raise two and half million dollars in additional financial support. We will leverage this capital to accomplish four major goals: investing in the Fred Taylor Scholarship Fund, allowing us to financially invest in FLOC students working to secure a postsecondary degree; second, ensuring our continued vitality and health by creating a reserve fund; in addition, devoting the capacity building resources necessary to support our growth; and most importantly, funding the program expansion, partnerships, and community organizing work that will bridge the persistent opportunity gap in our city.
We hope you will join FLOC in its efforts to expand, grow and serve more youth on their path to postsecondary success.
(Kate Fleischer is FLOC’s Development Associate.)