I live on a daily schedule, it helps me maintain balance and mental health in my life. I wake up early, grab a bite to eat, and head to work. I’m home around the same time every day and go to the gym. My routine keeps me grounded and focused on larger milestones that I intend to accomplish in my life. I work in a great field, and I’m at a point where I can save money for the future–I feel very blessed.
A couple of months ago, in the course of my daily routine, I noticed the custodian at my gym working with her daughter in tow. The child was helping her sweep the stairs. I immediately started wondering about this woman’s life and why she needed to bring her daughter to work. It was still summer, and because childcare is so expensive, many low-income families are forced to bring their kids to work. The thought of school beginning soon calmed my nerves because I figured this issue would resolve itself. However, once the school year began, I again noticed the young girl sitting on a bench at the gym doing her homework. I realized this was a chronic challenge for them, not a temporary one. Months later, as I exited late one evening, I saw the family a third time, this time with their grandmother. It was 8:30 p.m. and their workday was finally over. I was struck by a wave of emotion.
As a Community School Director, I build partnerships that provide opportunities for students and their families and integrate services into the fabric of the school. The average household income for a family at the school where I work is $25,000. However, roughly 11 percent of the population lives on a household income of less than $10,000 a year. My work is to remove barriers that prevent individuals from financial stability and good health. In South Salt Lake, 43 percent of individuals are uninsured. Many families worry constantly about their ability to remain healthy because living paycheck to paycheck is so precarious. The whole family is put in jeopardy if a parent cannot work. We work with a number of different health partners to ensure families receive flu shots, vaccinations, health screenings, and get coverage–critical services that allow parents and kids to stay healthy and financially stable.
If we fail to achieve our outcomes, it is often the difference between a child going on to college or not graduating from high school. I take this responsibility extremely seriously. My role to create opportunities in the schools and in the community is critical, but my ability to build support and gain allies for all low-income families is just as important.
While I was walking out of the gym, I realized this mother is like many of families I serve everyday, hard working and wanting the best for their children. I instantly realized my role at United Way is a lot bigger than me. Through my own daily routine, I was reminded of my responsibility and commitment to help change the odds for the families we serve and that my work doesn’t and shouldn’t end at the end of my workday–there is much more I can do, and that we all can do, to create understanding, empathy, and a more equitable community.
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