The Belief Gap
The Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) takes a “cradle to college to career” approach to helping low-income families in North Minneapolis make sure every youth is ready for college when they graduate high school. The place-based strategy seeks to end poverty by using education as a lever, according to Sondra Samuels, president and CEO of NAZ.
"Our goal is to change everything about a child’s life all at once, and so that means partnering with the parents. If the family needs housing, our team helps them get respectable housing,” said Samuels. “If they need a job, we are working with them to have more than just jobs, but careers.”
One of the featured tactics of the program is a family coach tasked with doing whatever they can to help the kids who might not otherwise make it through that path from birth to a successful career and all the important milestones along the way. A critical part of that is making these families—kids and parents—realize that they have the ability to succeed.
“What we know is that the achievement gap is made up of a lot of gaps, one of them being the ‘belief gap’—we simply don’t believe as a society that children born in a certain zip code of poverty, of violence, of single parentage, can actually do as well and excel in school,” said Samuels.
After one of NAZ’s 12-week parenting education programs, Samuels said one mother came up to her expressing that she finally believed her son was worthy of going to college.
NAZ recently received a sizeable grant from the U.S. Department of Education to grow its program to support 1,200 families and 3,000 children.