National, State and County data all indicate a stark and troubling truth: that children of color and those who grow up in poverty experience disproportionately negative outcomes when compared with white (and middle class or affluent) peers. Specifically, these children are more likely to be involved in the child welfare system, more likely to age out of the foster care system without permanence, less likely to graduate high school on time, more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system, and ultimately more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system as adults.
In 2007, the Minority Over-Representation Committee of the Best Practices Court in El Paso County decided to adopt a new approach to address the issue of minority over-representation across its systems. Based on research, the approach focuses on ensuring that children and youth have support to successfully achieve educational milestones as one of the fundamental factors in escaping poverty and involvement with the criminal justice system. Educating Children of Color, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was created as part of these efforts—with the goals of encouraging all youth to pursue higher education, supporting teachers to be successful educators, and educating parents on postsecondary preparedness and how to hold children and schools accountable.
The first Educating Children of Color Summit took place in January 2008, and 150 educators and approximately 250 students, parents, and juvenile justice and child welfare professionals attended to discuss these significant themes. The entirely volunteer-operated event has been held annually ever since, with attendance increasing dramatically over the past 11 years. The most recent Summit was held in January 2019, and featured 110 sessions. More than 600 teachers participated, along with hundreds of students, parents, and community members.
In addition to the flagship Summit, Educating Children of Color runs several other programs in the Pikes Peak region, including: scholarships; SAT test preparation; a leadership academy that includes mentorship from current college undergraduates; and “diversity university”, a weeklong continuing education program focused on issues of privilege and inequality.
El Pomar Foundation has provided four grants to Educating Children of Color since 2017, including support via the Ackerman and Karl E. Eitel Funds.
By Corey Baron