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Attacking Complexity, Leveraging Compassion

Unacceptable Fact of the Month: The median Black household with children in Indiana has a net worth of $294, compared to $47,250 for the median white household.  2021 Indiana KIDS COUNTS Data Book

Poverty is not only complex, but it is one of our greatest societal challenges. We all know this, but sometimes we must clearly state it. But how do we solve it? As our grant recipients and community partners have shown us, there is not a single solution to poverty. But there are common denominators to the most effective efforts: evidence-based solutions, compassion, collaboration, relationships, dedication and an inherent belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to live a life free from the tyranny of poverty. To help us all better understand what it takes to win such community amenities for those living in poverty, we are committed to providing more space in this newsletter for personal stories of people who have lived experience with poverty and those who are walking with them as they journey to a self-sustainability. It is our hope that these stories will inform your understanding of poverty and the community’s pursuit of long-term solutions. In this issue, you can hear from some of the youth involved with Elevate Indy, which works at two local high schools to mentor and guide young people out of poverty. Please read this and future stories, with our hope that they will be catalysts for action, furthering your work to eradicate poverty in Central Indiana. Lindsey Nell Rabinowitch Director, Faith & Action Project

Elevate Youth Identify Key Items for Long-term Impact

What does it take to break the cycle of poverty? Our experience helps us identify some key elements: access to adequate and stable housing, affordable healthcare, quality education, a promising job, a support network, a spiritual/moral code, and reliable nutrition. While no organization can offer access to all of these resources, some do offer evidence-based approaches and collaboration that tap into such elements to construct a holistic approach to the individuals and families they serve. One such organization is Elevate Indy, which works to break the cycle of poverty by walking alongside high school youth for the long term, helping them navigate resources, gain access to opportunities and be an academic and emotional support network along the way. Last week, a quintet of students and a pair of teacher/mentors from Elevate Indy shared their experiences and perspectives with The Faith & Action advisory board. During the Zoom call, the young people described the key challenges they have faced, including a lack of parental guidance and support; peer pressure to fail; emotional fatigue; no view of a path to opportunity; no money for college; no examples of success; negative role models; low self-esteem; and more. With these and other barriers in front of them, these young men and women might well have been headed for failure until they came under the wing of the Elevate mentors. Poised and eloquent, the students on the January 26 Zoom call highlighted the impact Elevate has had on them by describing their personal goals for the future: being a nurse, starting a fitness business and a coffee shop; becoming a teacher. During the conversation, they pointed to a half-dozen important contributors to their progress:

  • Navigation: “I know where I want to go, but have no idea how to get there,” said one student, Dominique. “Mr. Braylon, my mentor at Elevate, showed me my next steps and has coached me along the way.”
  • Access to opportunity: Elevate mentors engage with students in focused relationships aimed at supporting the young people in their endeavors and showing them the opportunities that lie beyond their neighborhoods. Ricardo explained that Elevate has helped him see different opportunities and helped him apply for a scholarship to Marian University. While he qualified for a scholarship, Ricardo could not receive it because his parents aren’t legal citizens. Elevate encouraged Ricardo not to give up hope, and continues to help him look for options.
  • Long-term Relationships: Common comments from the students included, “Ms. Amanda is like a mom to me” and “Elevate is my family.” Mariana added, “They have taught me how to be transparent and have given me the guidance to keep going even when I make mistakes.” Added Dominique, “They see the potential in us and believe in us.”
  • Network of Support: When asked about their most critical current needs (besides money), the students pointed to moral and academic support. Andrew, who doesn’t have parents, emphasized that the moral support and encouragement he receives from Elevate encourages him to go higher and achieve his goals … encouragement he doesn’t get at home.
  • Long-term solutions: When we asked what keeps them going, mentors Amanda and Braylon highlighted the transformations they’ve witnessed. “I’ve been working with some of the kids for a few years, and when I see them change and transform, it keeps me motivated to impact more youth,” Braylon said. Acknowledging that change doesn’t happen quickly, Amanda noted, “We take them on camping trips, play basketball with them weekly, and mentor them often.”
  • Faith: “At Elevate, we learn about being strong and that having strength and faith is a strong foundation in order to grow,” said Adesire.

Elevate’s impact is clear: In a city with a graduation rate that hovers around 75 percent for non-waiver students, 95% of Elevate students graduate, and 80% of those graduates enroll in college, military or trade school. Learn more about Elevate and hear more student stories at

The Lived Experience: April 15 Spring Conference

Christian Theological Seminary invites you to join representatives from area congregations, nonprofit, and government sectors and CTS students at the April 15th Faith & Action Spring Conference, sponsored by Lumina Foundation as we continue to seek the knowledge and understanding needed to eradicate poverty from our community. In an online setting, national innovator Nisha Patel, an advocate for “data-driven and heart-led” approaches to increasing mobility from poverty, will make the case for solutions built on input from people with lived experience in poverty. Registration information will be available in early March.  

Mark your calendar 

April 15, 2021: Faith & Action Online Spring Conference
October 5, 2021: Faith & Action Fall Event