LIMA — The road map to breaking the circle of poverty has one clear route, geting a good education.
“If we want to make changes, we can sit back and complain, or we could be willing to put some action behind that rhetoric. Part of that is having the right credentials to have a seat at the table,” said LaShonda Gurley, director of multicultural development at Ohio Northern University and a graduate of Lima Senior High School.
According to Census.gov, 45 percent of blacks in Lima were below the poverty line in 2014, compared to 29 percent of whites. Also in 2014, black unemployment was at 28 percent compared to 15 percent among whites.
Gurley said she believes job opportunities exist for blacks in Lima, but the problem lies in connecting students with those jobs.
In Lima Schools, part of the alternative program is linking students with jobs after they graduate. Fran Mort, principal of the alternative school, said vocational teachers have done an “excellent job” is reaching out to local industries.
“We had a girl who was probably the best welder in her class,” Mort said. “Her teacher recognized her skills and brought in a couple companies to watch her weld. She could have walked out of there and had a job with any of those companies because our teacher took the time to reach out to them.”
Mort said they also bring in college recruiters to show students college is also possible if they do not wish to enter the workforce right out of high school.
Despite their efforts, Mort said many students simply do not see a future for themselves because of their socioeconomic background.
“They already have these perceptions of failure because of all the social things they’ve been exposed to either by choice or not by choice, based on where they have to live,” Mort said.
Mort said that while schools do their best to instill a sense of hope for struggling students, she wishes more businesses would come into the schools to mentor students interested in pursing a particular field.
“It’d be nice to have business people willing to spend time with them, take them to their business and stick with them through graduation,” she said. “For some students, it takes that extra effort to show them that they have opportunities.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima