Students Explore Housing Issues in Richmond

In Erica Coffey's Poverty to Prosperity Senior Seminar, students investigate the cycle of poverty, its seemingly endless continuation and the great difficulty experienced by individuals and families who, once below a certain level of resources, very often experience a chain of events that can perpetuate their circumstances. Students make site visits to HomeAgain and Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School, as well as hear from Reggie Gordon, Director of Office of Community Wealth Building for the city of Richmond, and JoLinda Jones, Director of the family shelter at HomeAgain, to learn about the poverty cycle, understand multiple perspectives and experience how complicated breaking the cycle can be.

In September, students visited the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School, as well as Richmond's East End and Church Hill communities to learn about the school, the neighborhoods, the history of Richmond and the impact that history still has today. The experience encouraged students to investigate social issues and engage multiple perspectives to thoughtfully consider the poverty cycle from many angles. The Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School is an independent, faith-based middle school, providing full-tuition scholarships to students of limited economic resources primarily from Richmond's East End. Through a program focused on the whole child, the school helps empower students and graduates to change the trajectory of their lives, setting their sights on success in high school, college and serving their communities.
In October, class participants were welcomed by HomeAgain, an organization whose mission helps families and individuals experiencing homelessness secure and maintain a home, again. Students learned about HomeAgain's services in education and programs for families and single women, men and veterans. During the site visit, students actively participated in the work of the family shelter by cleaning and organizing the facility. They then returned to campus to reflect on their experience, the organization, its clients and their work to break the poverty cycle.

Collegiate students were deeply impacted by their experience.

"I am so happy that Richmond has such amazing organizations like HomeAgain," said one student. "Their mission is spot on. It made me realize how much I take for granted."  

Later in the semester, students will meet with Mrs. Jones to not only learn the needs of the organization, but to meet those needs through an abbreviated version of the design thinking process.  
Throughout the semester, students use discussion and reflective writing to transform class reading assignments, statistical research, site visits, speaker insights and active participation into understanding and empathy for the challenges faced by real people experiencing the poverty cycle in our Richmond community.