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Posted: June 11, 2017 5:00 a.m.

Lockhart: Newton County is ready to combat poverty

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If a community wishes to improve the quality of life for its citizens and reduce many of the societal ills we hear of daily in the news, we must address the issue of poverty.

Poverty harms communities in a variety of ways. When we study most crime statistics, we find that poverty is a root cause in criminal behavior. Even in our industrialized country, there are many neighborhoods in our great nation (and Newton County) where people are living with persistent hunger and are lacking basic needs. 

Poverty feeds a belief system of “haves” and “have nots,” thus perpetuating the divides between wealthy, middle class, and poor. Poverty kills and drains our community of its culture, intellect and collective successes.

It is the barrier between economic development and stagnation. To this end, the Newton County School System is partnering with Communications Across Barriers, Inc. and the Newton County Community to fight and destroy the virus that is poverty.

To date, NCSS has hosted two large-scale awareness meetings to educate our Newton stakeholders on poverty and its effects on our community. The goal is to create an “Opportunity Community,” a proven model for addressing poverty that has been successful in several cities across the nation.  Experienced consultants who have successfully implemented the Opportunity Community model are ready to guide Newton County stakeholders through the process over a five-year period. NCSS has developed a multi-year action plan with the intent of launching the Opportunity Community in early 2018. 

Another key component to addressing the issue of poverty is to help the community become “poverty informed,” which is a process of generating conversation and debunking commonly held myths about people suffering from poverty.

As of this writing, 21 NCSS employees have become certified poverty coaches.  As poverty coaches, we have received training that we use to share with interested parties across Newton County in efforts to raise awareness on how poverty impacts the community.

If your organization is interested in having a session with a poverty coach, please contact the Newton County Board of Education at 770-787-1330, and we will make arrangements to attend. The more educated we are on this topic, the better action steps we can take.

To keep these efforts at the forefront, a steering committee has been formed, and more partners are encouraged to join.  Both large and small group meetings will be conducted throughout the next year to give citizens a chance to learn more about this topic and hopefully, encourage them to join the cause.

Newton County residents from all sectors and backgrounds have expressed their commitment to this mission. The overwhelmingly positive reactions we have seen thus far lets us know that Newton County is ready and willing to take care of its people. 

Please join us as we combat the issue of poverty for the betterment of our entire community.

Craig Lockhart is the deputy superintendent for the Newton County School System. 

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