“Education: A Path out of Poverty,” will be the theme of an interfaith luncheon at First Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge at noon on June 5. Chris Whaley, president of Roane State Community College, will be the guest speaker.
The cost of the noon luncheon is $5, payable at the door. The luncheon is open to the public.
Admission to the talk is free. To make a reservation, call the church office at (865) 482-1318 or send an email to [email protected].
In the international development community, it is well-known that education is one of the most effective ways to improve the economic growth and potential of a country, a press release said. UNESCO reports that an additional year of schooling will raise income by 10 percent.
Furthermore, higher levels of education reduce poverty, increase nutrition and food security, promote health and well-being, help achieve gender equality, and reduce other forms of inequity, the release said. Educating women is especially effective. There is a maxim in the development community that if you education a woman, you educate three generations.
In the United States, community colleges are a blessing to the cities and towns where they are located. The economic and social benefits to the surrounding community are large and ongoing.
A 2014 study commissioned by the American Association of Community Colleges reports that benefits to the community include higher payroll tax and sales tax revenues as well as employer spending. In addition, the demand for government-supported services is reduced. For example, fewer residents are likely to make claims for welfare and unemployment insurance or become involved with the criminal justice system.
Students of community colleges tend to live for many years in the community where they attended school. Over the years, communities that surround colleges experience a “brain gain.” This increase in intellectual capital is important to a community because an educated workforce and post-secondary educational resources are key factors in regional growth and development, the press release said.
Education is so important to the well-being of the citizens of Oak Ridge and the future of the community that First Presbyterian Church started an “educational missions” project with several local initiatives.
Headed by Teresa Brittain of FPC’s local mission, outreach, and development team, the church formed a partnership with Roane State to help local students achieve their academic goals. Volunteers from the church help staff the school’s tutoring center on the Oak Ridge campus, assisting students with a variety of academic requirements.
“We wanted to move toward supporting programs that would be transformative to individuals, to move individuals and their families out of poverty,” Brittain said. “As we read, explored the work of local organizations, thought about our denominational traditions, and the strengths of the congregation, it became clear that educational missions was an avenue that we should pursue.”
The need for volunteer tutors at RSCC’s Oak Ridge campus is expected to grow this fall because of Governor Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Promise” scholarship program, which will provide free tuition community college studies to all state residents, regardless of merit or need. That means enrollment at RSCC will rise.
The goals of the “Drive to 55” initiative are to increase to 55 percent the share of Tennesseans who are college graduates and to fill more of the high-skilled jobs available in Tennessee with state residents.
The luncheon on June 5 is part of the 70th anniversary celebration of First Presbyterian Church. The luncheon will be held in the newly renovated Fellowship Hall. The public is invited.