Howard County is known for its quality of life, vibrant racial, ethnic, and economic diversity, and excellent schools. It’s one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., based on median annual household income.
Yet 22% of county students qualify for Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS - poverty level) and all thirteen county high schools have active FARMS participants. Hammond, Long Reach, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake serve Columbia neighborhoods and host the highest concentration of FARMS students, ranging from 37 to 46%. Today, these students are academically vulnerable for many reasons. For example, they may feel a lack of belonging, or they may have had less access to reinforce classroom learning after or outside of school.
Looking deeper at Howard County’s composition, we find neighborhoods divided by race and/or wealth. Many people in our community, especially children, experience an added kind of poverty—the poverty of social isolation. Meaningful supportive relationships are often out of reach for the children of these families. In this circumstance of limited involvement or interaction with others, students may retreat and become more isolated. As a result, their school performance can suffers dramatically.
Many people have had to overcome barriers or difficulties to become emotionally and economically successful. We’ve all had help or guidance from parents, grandparents, other family members, friends, coaches, and mentors. In effect, we each had an Ohana--a unique network of caring people supporting us in our daily lives--where every person served and benefited. These individuals strengthened personal connections, and grew by helping and learning from each other.
Powered by a desire to give back to our community and provide equal access for all, each Ohana builds strong relationships with a student to help him or her surmount difficulties and grow academically, emotionally, and socially.
Collectively, Ohanas provide a consistent social support network, ensuring students gain social confidence and help them achieve their educational potential.
It is just the beginning, see where we plan to go.
We are only as good as the people supporting us.
Building a foundation of support for our students.