Nonprofit Voice | First-generation college graduates: key to community transformation

The odds are stacked against too many children across America today. In Georgia, 47 percent of children live in families considered low-income. The Atlanta metropolitan area is still one of the hardest places for children to climb out of poverty: In South Fulton County, where the Future Foundation is based, one in four families live below the poverty line.

I believe that a child's circumstance does not have to determine their future. In fact, I am living proof of that theory. Neither of my parents graduated from college, but my four siblings and I have gone on to college and graduate school. As first-generation college graduates who grew up in a less-than-ideal environment, we’ve experienced the difference education can make, but we also know what it took to get us to the finish line: a support system.

I have a dream that all of Atlanta’s children, and kids across the world, will not only have access to a quality education, but to a support system that enables them to take full advantage of it. Twenty years after leaving South Fulton, where I was raised, I returned to find kids there still experiencing a poorer quality of education than kids on the north side—even though they share the same school district. And so, rather than point fingers, I committed to making a difference, along with the dedicated staff, board of directors, and supporters helping execute Future Foundation’s mission.

Founded in 2001, Future Foundation provides holistic support to youth in East Point, College Park, and the surrounding area south of Atlanta. We seek to improve the chances of success for students in grades 6 to 12 through a five-point strategy, incorporating relationship skill development, academic enrichment, family supports, life skills building, and health education. Our students receive support in their everyday environments—during school, after school, and in the home. As a result, 100 percent of Future Foundation teens have graduated high school and matriculated to college. We also instill in them the passion to come back to our community after graduation and inspire others to break the cycle of poverty through education.

Thousands of young people have walked through the Future Foundation’s doors. I’d like to think that I reach them because of my training and education, but I’ve seen inspiration take hold so many times when I tell them, “I grew up in this neighborhood just like you. My parents didn’t finish college, but I did—and so can you!”

The hope generated from the shared experience of adversity, and the living example of those who’ve overcome the odds, is extraordinary. Investing in that hope, and returning its benefits to the community, means a better future for generations to come.

Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim is CEO of the Future Foundation, an organization serving the same community where she was raised. In addition to fulfilling the Foundation’s mission of leveling the playing field for metro Atlanta youth, she is also working to expand the organization’s work on a state and national scale.

 

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