A Different Path: Violence Prevention and Educational Opportunity

Late last month, FLOC Deputy Director Robyn Lingo testified before DC City Council as part of a forum on preventing youth violence.  Read her powerful testimony about the impact out-of-school time programming can have on our young people and our city…

Testimony of Robyn Lingo
For Love of Children (FLOC)
D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary
Forum on Preventing Youth Violence
April 25, 2015

My name is Robyn Lingo and I am the Deputy Director at For Love of Children (FLOC). Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of For Love of Children.

Last year, our nation reached a profound milestone — 80 percent of our students now graduate high school. Within the District of Columbia, however, we struggle to graduate even 64 percent of our students. Our city boasts the highest proportion of young adults with college degrees, yet only 10 percent of our city’s own high school students will attain postsecondary degrees.

According to the DC Alliance for Youth Advocates, there are over 14,000 young people in the District neither enrolled in school nor employed, and less than 42% of 20-24 year olds in DC have fulltime employment. In the highest-need Wards of the city, those statistics are even more striking.

It’s not hard to see the correlation between the lack of educational opportunity and the prevalence of violence among our youth. Without us demonstrating a clear path to a successful educational journey and chosen career for our youth, we see all too often the dangerous and harmful direction that too many young people go down.

Everyday, FLOC is offering a different path, by providing opportunities for students to succeed in school, aspire to earn a postsecondary degree, and become contributing members of their communities. Unlike many other youth-serving programs, we provide a continuum of support that guides our students from first grade through completion of a postsecondary degree. Through our Neighborhood Tutoring Program, we intervene early to make sure that students do not fall further behind in reading or math. Building on those academic skills, our Scholars Program exposes our students to experiences, information and activities that build persistence skills to help them progress through their educational journey and into a chosen career.

As the Deputy Director of For Love of Children, I know that out of school time programs play critical roles in ensuring every student’s successful path toward adulthood and in preventing youth from being pulled into dangerous choices or violent circumstances.

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A nationwide study by the Afterschool Alliance showed that DC has the highest after school participation rate in the U.S., yet we ranked 49th in the percentage of low-income children enrolled in an afterschool program.  In the same study, the Afterschool Alliance found that of those DC children not currently enrolled in afterschool, 66% would be likely to participate if an afterschool program were available in their community. As the data has shown many times, students who participate in high quality afterschool programs “behave better, receive better grades and perform better on tests than students that do not.” At FLOC, we also know that our students benefit tremendously from being exposed to college and career options that help them envision an exciting and rewarding future for themselves, and from the attention of caring, adult mentors who help them make smart choices about their future. These powerful interventions can make a critical difference in the course a young person takes into their future.

Over the past 50 years, FLOC has served more than 10,000 children, turning disparity into opportunity and making sure they stay on the right path to a healthy, productive and fulfilling adulthood. Currently, 100 percent of our seniors graduate high school, and over 70% have graduated from postsecondary or are persisting towards a degree. FLOC sparks community transformation one young person at a time by ensuring access to quality afterschool services that lead to postsecondary success. FLOC programming focuses on youth empowerment by building critical thinking, leadership, and advocacy skills that dramatically increase readiness for postsecondary education. Through our signature Neighborhood Tutoring and Scholars Programs, we intervene early and expose students to educational opportunities and career experiences that lead to proven success.

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With more than 100 local and national partners, FLOC provides critical access to free afterschool services — from first grade through college and career — for youth throughout the city. Furthermore, by partnering with our students and families, we are organizing a community call for wider access to quality out of school time programming.

These are tangible, achievable steps we can take together to move closer to our vision: a city in which every child’s potential — regardless of zip code, skin color, or socioeconomic status — is unlocked with a postsecondary degree, opening the doors to success in life.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to testify.

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