Bridging the Opportunity Gap

July 8, 2016

The Ravenel Bridge is the quintessential Charleston landmark. Defining the Holy City’s skyline, this bridge represents a much deeper connection than simple transportation. We witnessed the bridge represent a new age of growth when it opened to the public in 2005. Each April, we see it represent symbols of athleticism as thousands embark on its 2.7-mile stretch in the annual run. In June of 2015, the entire world watched as both sides of the bridge filled with people coming together to show that love conquers all, and the bridge became an international symbol of unity.

Some, however, see the bridge as a great divide. Splitting Charleston County, the east end of the bridge takes you to Mt. Pleasant; a town known for its planned communities, complete with outstanding public schools. The west end of the bridge takes you into the upper peninsula area of Charleston. This neighborhood is marked by generational poverty, with 58% of residents in this area living at or below the Federal Poverty Level.

How can a few miles of river and bridge divide two towns by what seems to be oceans apart?

Charleston is a city filled with history, charm, and unity. No single community in our area wants to appear as the “Haves”, and certainly no neighborhood wants to appear as, or live like the “Have-Nots”. What can be done about this? How do we bridge the gap that the Ravenel Bridge seems to represent? How do we ensure that the next generation of Charlestonian children grow up with equal opportunities to continue to make this the “Number 1 City in America”?

Often times, children living in poverty are generalized into either the problem or the victims. Charleston Promise Neighborhood aims to make the child the solution by investing in them as a whole to give each one the tools necessary for graduation and beyond. Viewing each child in our Neighborhood as a catalyst for change empowers them as individuals, their families, and in turn will empower the entire community of Charleston.

This investment is broken down into three different components.

  1. School-Based Health Care; Charleston Promise Neighborhood has partnered with MUSC to put KidsWell school-based health clinics in our Neighborhood schools. In these clinics, students can be treated at school to ensure they are getting quality health care, to reduce their out-of-class time, and to decrease out-of-work time for parents. The KidsWell team screens students for visual, dental, and hearing issues within the first nine weeks of school to ensure any issues are addressed early on, thus preventing learning barriers.
  2. Expanded Learning Time; Charleston Promise Neighborhood helps provide afterschool enrichment opportunities to our students, ranging from academic support, to dance lessons, to boat-making. Students enrolled in these programs also receive dinner on site, so five days a week, our students are getting three meals a day. Our afterschool programs also allow for parents to work more traditional shifts, in turn allowing for more time together at home.
  3. Community Engagement; Charleston Promise Neighborhood engages residents to stand hand in hand as neighbors in this fight. We bring the table, and offer up seats to anyone who wants their voice to be heard. This empowerment helps create a better sense of community and also allows us to focus on areas we are needed. (To read about our most recent Community and Parent Engagement events, click here)

Transformation within a generation. That is our aim. On the surface, our mission is to ensure that our residents are engaged in their community and that every child is on track to graduate and prosper. The bigger picture spans greater than the 2.7 mile divide. Bridging the opportunity and economic gaps is within our reach. Investing in these children to create a better, more united community is the only solution. If we are already the Number 1 City in America, think of what we could accomplish if the weight of generational poverty in the heart of our city disappeared. Join us, and join the Promise today.