Communities with vacant lots, substandard housing, poorly maintained apartment complexes and an entrenched criminal element impact a young person’s ability to experience long-term success in life. These factors, coupled with underperforming schools, often result in academic failure and high drop-out rates.
For Maria Armstrong and Tangee Allen, the decision to address these issues began when they were students at Georgia State University. For two years, as volunteer tutors for youth from low income areas, they took children to the local library to read, work on math problems and mentor. During this time, they saw children do the very thing that society said they couldn’t– they became successful in school and beyond.
With passions stoked, Maria and Tangee realized that they had to continue serving as instruments of change in the lives of economically and academically challenged youth in Metro Atlanta and founded Raising Expectations (RE).
“We were personally raised to have high expectations of ourselves and were taught that serving is a requirement and a sign of gratitude for all that we accomplished.”
The driving force behind the organization was the desire to play a part in helping students beat the odds. The goal – to help these children understand that with hard work and personal leadership they, too, could attend college and pursue dreams that reached far beyond what was most familiar to them.
While there are many organizations that provide youth development and college readiness support, RE is distinguished by the 360-degree approach taken to empower and cultivate the best in each student. Their efforts go far beyond academics focusing on developing youth holistically. This philosophy is centered on building authentic, genuine and long-term relationships with students, families, schools, the community and partners. The organization empowers youth in crises by elevating their academic, social and civic expectations so they can graduate high school and pursue post-secondary education.
Seventeen-year-old Natasha Ellis is a recent success story. Now in her tenth year with RE and a senior in high school, Natasha is on track to finish her associate degree in 2019 – the very same year she will graduate from Booker T. Washington High School.
Prior to her freshman year, Natasha was unsure of her career interests. It was as a result of RE’s ongoing mentorship, exposure to STEM-focused summer camps and workshops, and four internship opportunities that a more confident and assured Natasha emerged. Today she has decided to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.
Each year, Maria and Tangee watch proudly as their students graduate from high school and college. In fact, many of the students mentored have gone on to be the first in their families – or even communities – to receive high school diplomas and college degrees.
At the end of this school year, RE will celebrate first-generation graduates from Spelman College, Morehouse College and Pitzer College ready to embark upon a life filled with opportunity.
“These are the moments that make us extremely proud because we know where they came from, what they had to overcome, and the countless hours that volunteers and staff offered to support them throughout their journey.”
For those interested in helping children on their journey to success, RE has multiple opportunities to get involved, including one-time projects, short- and long-term volunteering and corporate engagement. Visit www.raisingexpectations.org/engage for more information.
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