Opinion Columns & Blogs

Askins: ‘The Steve Morrison Workshop: A Better Understanding of Poverty’

Allison Askins
Allison Askins

Imagine for just a moment how you respond to your children when you are worried about money, trying to get somewhere on time or adjusting to life without one of your cars until repairs return the family’s routine back to normal.

Amplify this for children living in poverty where parents, often just one, may be juggling two jobs and trying to figure out how to get their lights turned back on after using the last of the money they had to pay the rent so they don’t get evicted … that month. It is a life relentlessly consumed with stress. And all of this is compounded by the systemic issues that are far too often the norm for impoverished families — lack of education, which leads to a lack of employable skills, less healthy diets and living habits, fewer options for safe living conditions, fewer options for rewarding entertainment and enrichment opportunities for their children’s wellbeing. The list is endless.

Compound this reality by another: Brain science indicates that these conditions actually inhibit a child’s brain development.

As recently seen in “Hartsville: 180 Days,” the excellent ETV documentary about public education in impoverished schools, we learned how very difficult it is to bring hope to these classrooms, and yet, it can happen. Change is an arduous journey, but it is not an impossible one. Members of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church’s Movie Group will show the documentary again at 6 p.m. Tuesday in our parish hall. A follow-up discussion will be facilitated by an ETV staff member who also is a member of the church.

Viewing the documentary is preparation for an April 22 event aimed at these issues as well. On this date, some 80 members and guests from surrounding schools, churches and businesses will get a first-hand experience of the stressors playing out in classrooms in our state every day by taking part in a poverty simulation. The simulation will be conducted at St. Martin’s by Tammy Pawloski and her staff from the Center of Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children of Poverty at Francis Marion University. The event is being held in honor of Steve Morrison, a St. Martin’s member and an attorney who played a major role in the public education equity funding case. “The Steve Morrison Workshop: A Better Understanding of Poverty” is also being offered in support of the LARCUM Bishops’ Public Education Initiative.

Our intent is to learn more about the experience of poverty so that we might become better neighbors, teachers, church members and community leaders. We know that “minimally adequate” is not nearly enough to overcome the obstacles impoverished children face in our schools and we hope to be inspired by this experience in ways that allow us to find creative solutions not yet envisioned. Like Steve, we know no institution or person can do it alone and we know no democracy can survive without a solid public education system. We aim to be a part of the exciting work that is underway in South Carolina to turn around the statistics that have plagued us for far too long.

Ms. Askins is the associate for communication and programs at St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Columbia. Email her at Allison.askins@stmartinsinthefields.com. Join the St. Martin’s Movie Group at 6 p.m., Tuesday, in the St. Martin’s Parish Hall, 5220 Clemson Ave.