Public Schools, Poverty, and Personal Relationships

Through Local Missions here at Cornerstone, we try to demonstrate God’s love to others by encouraging our members to serve in ways that (1) develop relationships in our existing spheres of influence and (2) address the systems that cause folks to be in poverty in the first place.

We have found public schools to be an incredible way to enter in on both of these counts. First of all - regarding the sphere of influence - many of us have schools nearby, and some of us have kids in those very schools on a daily basis. Secondly, education is an absolutely critical component of addressing systemic poverty.

Here is one example of how it works out on the systemic level:

To summarize…on the whole, students who have both grown up in poverty and under parents of low educational attainment consistently score lower in math, reading and science, and are thus at risk of falling behind their fellow students.

Further, students that miss a lot of school are more likely to drop out of school, and thus more likely to be in poverty. For those that do end up in poverty - if they end up having children - those children would now fall under the two risk factors described above, and would themselves be at risk for low educational attainment. And so the cycle goes…

It’s heart-wrenching, isn’t it?

We can only do so much to enter in to this picture, but we CAN do something.

Mentorship is one primary way to help address attendance and educational attainment. Whether in the classroom or in the dining room, we have opportunities to develop lasting, meaningful relationships with students and their families. On a systemic level, helping shape a warm and ordered environment at your school will hopefully move the needle in terms of educational attainment and poverty. On a personal level, it is a chance to just “be there” for other people who bear God’s image.

Trust me, it feels very mundane in the moment - doing flash cards, reading silly kids books, giving a high five at recess. But if the Lord allows it, I hope to be in the thick of that mundane on a weekly basis through all the years my children are in elementary school. I know it will only make a difference of a few tenths of a percentage point on attendance and educational skills. But I also expect that the Lord will use me as an ambassador for Christ and bring before me people I never would have met otherwise. Who knows what may happen?!

The movement of God’s people to serve in this way is already starting here in our own central Iowa communities. I would love to see even more jump in. Please consider connecting with me ( or the Cornerstone school liaison in your area to see how you can get involved!

Shane Kelley