My name is Gustavo Requena, and i’m an Argentinian American who attends Olney Charter High School in North Philly. I’m an eleventh grader, and I’m writing to you to make you realize the issues surrounding our nation concerning poverty. I’ll be doing so by giving my personal story dealing with poverty, data and facts, and a very realistic anecdote. This is important to me, because I actually live in poverty and struggle everyday.
Let me tell you about my story concerning poverty. Growing up, as most kids, I didn’t care about money. I didn’t know it was necessary in our world, ruined friendships, and could even get people killed. Now that I think about it I hate money and what it does to people. Now that doesn’t mean I dislike having money, but I digress. I soon realized that my family in particular didn’t have much money. It was never that bad, but over time it got worse. There were times when we couldn’t eat. Times when we didn’t have heat, so we showered with cold water. I like colder showers, but do you know what’s it like to try to rush through your shower in fear that you’ll get sick? It didn’t help that my parents enrolled me in a Catholic school that was literally thousands of dollars per student! I did at least get free lunch (sometimes), because of our low income. After making some new friends, and getting used to everything, I was transferred back into my neighborhood public school in 8th grade, because we simply couldn’t afford it anymore. After meeting so many people in Catholic school and researching I quickly realized how privileged so many people are. They have all they need and more, but why couldn’t I have so many nice things like them? Is it my race, gender, neighborhood, the fact that i’m an Argentinian immigrant? Why are there so many like me (and many that are doing much worse!)? It’s just not fair and this must change.
Like i’ve previously stated, I’m not the only one struggling to succeed in our country. “More than 1 in 5 children in America (21.8%) live under the official poverty line” (kairoscenter.org). There shouldn’t even be an “official poverty line.” We’re constantly hearing things like “In a perfect world…,” but why can’t we make this a reality? We, as a nation, can! We just have to look at the facts, which are there, and help anyone who needs help. This unfortunately is a large amount of people in the country. “Half of all children will be on food stamps before they’re 20, including 9 out of 10 African American children” (kairoscenter.org). Government help is very useful, but “food stamps don’t buy diapers” (Eminem). “Nearly 30% of parents in the United States cannot afford diapers which can cost up to $100 every month per baby. And it is an expense not covered by food stamps” (Laura Klairmont-CNN.com).
Now that i’ve discussed the numbers let’s dig deeper into the way poverty shapes children. One of the main ways it does so is through their education. For example, the way schools are funded is by what neighborhood they’re located in. It all depends on local property taxes. This means that schools in poor neighborhoods will not be funded equally as a school in a mid-class and/or rich neighborhood. Fix this. It’s the poorer schools that have less graduates, yet they’re not getting the funds they need to meet the student learning expectations. Without proper funding schools tend to do worse and this affects the number of students who attend college, or even just graduate. Another huge problem is that the military and the hundreds of thousands of prisons in our country are receiving more funding than the schools. By helping the schools and education system in general there’d be less prisoners, and this would be killing two birds with one stone.
By referring back to my last paragraph about how ridiculous the school system is, I’d like to give you an idea of how the life of a child growing up with these problems is. Imagine a child being born in a family of high school dropouts, parents who don’t care, and living in poverty. This child grows up without the support of his family and is never pushed to follow her or his dreams. Without this motivation this child usually just skips because why go to school, right? He/She’s just a kid who doesn’t know better. By the time this student realizes how important their education is, he/she is already failing all his/her classes, missed too many days, therefore ends up just dropping out. Now struggling to get by on a minimum wage job, he/she could have a kid. Now the problem is even worse. This person must take care of both themselve and a baby. There will be nights when they don’t eat, nights where they’ll be cold, nights when they have to sleep in a church. If this person had more opportunities he/she could’ve graduated, gotten a better job, and maybe even gone to college, yet the school system and lack of help he/she received caused this unfair life. Not only that, but now his/her son will suffer too.
In conclusion, poverty is obviously a very serious problem in our country right now. Even with government help, people judge others who receive it. They just assume people use it on drugs and in reality it’s usually someone struggling to feed their kids. As president you must change the number of people living in poverty. Thank you for reading.