Community Development in Ward 8

person holding pencil near laptop computer
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

By Énoa Gibson

Washington, D.C.—Reading Partners, MathHope, and Friendship place are three programs that are helping to improve life in the ward in light of the challenges. These programs help enhance education and also help to provide living accommodations in Ward 8 to enhance the lives of the Ward 8 residents.

Systemic educational inequality plagues Ward 8 community members and feeds into the cycle of poor education, leading to fewer choices for gainful employment.  

According to DC Health Matter92 percent of the population in Ward 8 is African American. Racial, socioeconomic, and infrastructural factors have all impacted D.C.’s geographical disparities in unemployment. According to the Employment Policies Institute, many of those struggling with unemployment lack higher education or even high school diplomas, and according to the US Census Bureau, only 15 percent of residents in Ward 8 who are 25 years or older possess a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Paul Ruffins, the director of Workforce Academics and a math teacher at Southeast Ministry, a social justice ministry, knows about poor education in Ward 8 all too well and has been working diligently to change the epidemic by teaching his math formula MathHope.

With the invention of his math formula, MathHope, the former Harvard student, and current math teacher in Ward 8 is educating the less educated in the community so that they can qualify for entry-level jobs that pave the way for a stable livelihood.

MathHope is a new approach to teaching adults the math they need to change their lives by using hands-on materials and adult manipulatives and is perfect for students with math anxiety or learning disabilities.

Ruffins, said entry-level jobs require candidates to pass tests that measure basic grammar, spelling, math, and language skills such as the CASAStest. 

Ruffins teaches many adults who seek to pass these entry level exams. 

“I have a passion for teaching mathematics to people with math anxiety and undiagnosed learning disabilities, math anxiety is actually felt amongst about 90 percent of all Americans who are not math majors” said Ruffins. 

Many children and adults experience anxiety or discomfort when confronted by a math problem.

“When you have an adult who cannot add five and seven without counting on their fingers, how are you going to help that person? Someone who doesn’t need to know everything, but they want to get into the training program so they have to pass the CASAS test – these are test middle-class people have never even heard of,” said Ruffins.

Paul Ruffins has success stories of adults who passed their CASAS test after working with him and using MathHope, and he hopes to help raise the employment rate in Ward 8 by teaching adults who struggle with math his formula.

Ward 8 has a large population of children but has always lacked funding in education.

According to Education Town HallWard 8, which has the most children in the city, has issues in its schools which include basic funding and severe budget cuts this year alone.

The effect of the gaps in the education system for the youth in Ward 8 is no surprise to Reading Partners, a national tutoring organization that improves students reading level. The lack of steady quality education is a leading cause of the need for the services provided by them.

According tothe National Center for Education Statistics, 19 percent of adults cannot read. 

To help lower the illiteracy percentage, Reading Partners provides quality education in early childhood

Reading Partners has trained volunteers to help students master the reading fundamentals they need to reach grade level by following a structured curriculum by providing the student with the tools they need to be a good confident reader and bring that skill into their adulthood.  

“As a reading partner, we are teaching them skills they need to succeed as a reader while also getting the student to believe in themselves,” said Erika Brosnihan, community engagement manager at Reading Partners.

Poor education is linked to poverty and homelessness. 

According to the American Community Survey, 24.3 percent of D.C. residents who have not attended college have lived below the poverty line in the past year. 

Jean Giraud, the President and CEO of Friendship Place, a regional homelessness services provider located in Ward 8, believes that education is directly linked to homelessness, and that proper education will garner stable income and eradicate poverty and, therefore, homelessness.

When asked how he believes homelessness can be eradicated, Giraud said “homelesness is linked to joblessness, so for me, housing and employment have to work together to end homelessness in the D.C. metro area and everywhere.” 

MathHope has already helped many students both in Ruffins class at Southeast Ministry and to anyone online. MathHopeReading Partners, and Friendship Placeare a few examples of organizations in Ward 8 focused on community development.

Racial stigmas, socio-economic, and infrastructural factors combined create a community profile. If these factors are individually improved, Ward 8 will become a safer community that thrives in a myriad of facets.

According to the DC Policy Center, “By strengthening initial schooling, ensuring equitable and equal access to quality education, and linking classroom skills to employability, policymakers can create new and improved spaces for learning and economic success for all in Ward 8.”

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