In February 2015, Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) published Demonstrating the Value of Pima County Community College District, an analysis of the economic impact and return on investment of education. The results in this paper demonstrate the use of education as a catalytic force contributing to economic development, which can ultimately eliminate generational poverty. According to the EMSI report, students receive a present value of $2.5 billion in increased earnings over their working lives. Conversely, the state of Arizona will receive present value of $7.5 billion in added state income over the course of the students’ working lives as well as $118.7 million in present value social savings related to reduced crime, lower welfare and unemployment, and increased health and well-being across the state. 1 This translates to a better quality of life for individuals and families.
I, Dr. Baraka Williams-Mapp, an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Pima County Community College (PCC) truly believe increased access to education can contribute to a reduction in poverty. Motivated by this belief, I continue in my efforts to serve with the Tucson Community Schools Initiative, a grant funded program to scale up school based services by strengthening community partnerships, community engagement and outreach, and building capacity and systems in eight of Tucson’s high schools with students from marginalized populations. Specifically, high schools of the Tucson Community Schools Initiative include Pueblo, Santa Rita, Palo Verde, Catalina, S.T.A.R Academic Center, Desert View, Sentinel Peak and Flowing Wells. Tucson Community Schools Initiative high schools are representative of 3 school districts which include Tucson Unified School District, Sunnyside Unified School District and Flowing Wells Unified School District. As of date (January – June 2016), a total of 399 students from the eight high schools of the Tucson Community Schools Initiative have applied and been accepted to attend PCC for the fiscal year 2016 – 2017.
I am currently working on two major projects. One of the projects includes developing training material for an outreach training workshop, and the other is planning PCC and University of Arizona Transfer Day, a collaborative outreach program to expose students to four year university bridge pathways. Both programs are expected to be offered in the Fall 2016 semester. By equipping volunteer staff with the necessary tools to engage students through college-wide outreach and exposing students to resources and support beyond community college, I am confident that my service will have a positive impact on the economic future of Southern Arizona. Education is a powerful weapon and a sure way out of poverty.