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Opinion
Better futures through education

By Debbie Rambo
Posted: 3/15/2013

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Glenda's road toward a new life began in 2010, when she embarked on a journey that would take her more than 1600 miles from home. Her husband had already immigrated to Boston from the Dominican Republic to build a better future for their family. When Glenda, then 22, set out with their two young daughters to join him, she shared that goal.

But she knew at least two obstacles would block her on the road to self-sufficiency: She spoke only Spanish, and she'd never finished school. Shortly after arriving in Boston, Glenda discovered a second home -- and in many ways, a second family -- in Jamaica Plain at Catholic Charities' El Centro del Cardenal. She was grateful to have acquired part-time work, but she wanted something better -- not just for the sake of her girls, but to make her parents proud.

That's why for two years, she pursued her education through our English for Speakers of Other Languages program, while her oldest daughter attended Catholic Charities' Nazareth Child Care Center in the same building. Glenda developed close friendships with fellow students, who recognizing her leadership skills, elected her to the student council.

Last spring, her husband and children applauded as she graduated from our Level 5 class -- having skipped right over Level 4 because of her academic abilities! And this past January, she began her first semester of college. "I know a lot of people who come here and stay in one job," she says. "There is nothing wrong with that. But it is not for me." She tells us she's studying to be an accountant -- a clear goal and step up from her current job.

But Glenda still comes back to visit her former teachers at Catholic Charities' El Centro del Cardenal. "When I visit El Centro, I feel it's like my home," she explains.

She adds that she's also extremely thankful for her daughter's great experience at Catholic Charities' Nazareth Child Care Center. She credits its encouragement of children to explore, experiment and grow at their own pace for helping her daughter transition so successfully to kindergarten last fall. The preparation that her daughter received was so good that she has quickly been moved up to a higher academic level. "I'm so proud of her," Glenda says, smiling. "She's very intelligent."

Glenda's younger daughter is now on the child care center's waiting list, eagerly awaiting the day she can get started.

At Catholic Charities, we work to help those who may otherwise fall through the cracks of our society's safety net -- and we are proud of our efforts to provide high quality educational services to so many in our communities that might not otherwise access them. We do this because we know that it is nearly impossible to move out of poverty without a good education.

Research confirms much of what we know about the economic benefits that accompany academic achievement -- we know that young people who finish high school earn an average of $30,627 annually over the course of their lifetime, $10,386 a year more than those who drop out. And those who complete college earn $1.52 million more over the course of their lifetime than their high school graduating peers.

In addition, research tells us that access to high quality early childhood education is also smart public policy. According to a study by Minneapolis economists Rob Grunewald and Art Rolnick, early education investments yield an economic return of $8 for every $1 invested.

And so we continue in our efforts to provide high quality educational services, not only for the young children we serve, but for the teens, young adults, and adult learners we are privileged to serve. Our collective future depends on it.

To learn more about our work visit www.ccab.org.

Debbie Rambo, LICSW, is the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.