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Friday, July 15th, 2011
As the father of a newborn son, I am keenly aware of my responsibility to instill high values in my child, to make sure he has a good education and all the opportunities necessary to become a productive adult who gives back to society. What I wish for my son, I wish for all children.
My job description focuses on urban entrepreneurship – the business of restoring housing and commerce to mature neighborhoods. But the end game is about creating nice city neighborhoods and business districts in which people want to live and work.
Of the people who benefit, the children are the most important. They are both our future and our collective legacy.
For those of us who are advantaged, it’s not enough to concern ourselves with the children in our own nuclear families. Our nation can’t afford a future where the gap between haves and have-nots continues to deepen because children in poor neighborhoods don’t get the education and the opportunities they need to break cycles of poverty.
We know education is important, and having new public school buildings in Akron speaks to this community’s commitment to children. However, it’s also necessary to build neighborhoods that serve as the foundation for successful schools.
Over many years, urban areas have lost a lot of societal glue. Children struggle without the support of and example set by role models. We all need help along life’s way. Maybe it’s a little extra coaching in sports, or a phone call to open up a job opportunity.
Unfortunately, no golden parachute is going to drop down to pick up kids in poor neighborhoods, where there is high unemployment and a legacy of discrimination.
A new book, titled Neighborhood and Life Chances: How Place Matters in Modern America, underscores the complexity of trying to undo and reverse negative impact. However, the core point of the book — a project of the University of Pennsylvania and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia — is that neighborhoods really matter to kids in the long term.
The challenge is to build up neighborhoods, one block at a time, to begin developing an environment that breeds success. In recognizing that a rising tide benefits all, we can begin to see how efforts to help disadvantaged children will benefit all children — including the ones we call our own.
Our own children will thank us for inspiring future doctors, nurses, teachers, chefs, musicians, fire fighters, police officers — and all around good neighbors.