When reflecting on the factors that derailed them academically, Quad’ir Ford and Nalik Lark-Hightower didn’t mention living in poverty or exposure to trauma as factors. But experts have said that these two distinct yet intertwined conditions in children’s lives can go far in explaining the root cause of the dropout crisis.
“Trauma is not a singular event; neither is poverty,” said Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, executive director of the Philadelphia Youth Network and co-chair of Project U-Turn. There is a “cycle of experiences,” she said, that can vary from homelessness to the unexpected death of a family member to food insecurity to experiencing a high level of violence in the neighborhood.
“Poverty and trauma are mutually reinforcing and negatively correlated,” Fulmore-Townsend said. "Young people living in poverty are more likely to experience trauma … and the psychological effects of trauma make it harder to overcome poverty. It’s an unwieldy, challenging problem.”
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