Battling poverty one class at a time

Chris Richter engages his senior sociology class at Southington High School with a discussion about poverty. Local educators are trying to spearhead a grassroots movement to end poverty.



Board of Education member Bob Brown is bringing poverty awareness to Southington and the State of Connecticut in hopes of eradicating it…completely.

A former high school civics teacher, Brown spent 41 years teaching in the Southington district before retiring and winning a seat on the BOE. He had students that suffered from poverty and homelessness, and he has been working with organizations in hopes of ending the problem.

“Solving or reducing poverty is not only a moral issue, but it can save taxpayers millions of dollars,” Brown said.

In his efforts, Brown sent letters to national political figures including Bill Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Chris Murphy) and spoke with local officials like Joe Markley and Joe Aresimowicz.

His biggest ally became the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH), which was founded in 1982 as a membership organization by staff and volunteers of homeless shelters in response to increasing homelessness.

“We advocate for resources and work to make the homeless sector more efficient,” CCEH development advisor Madeline Ravich said.

The coalition provided lesson plans to Southington staff so they could dedicate a lesson to poverty and homelessness. When Brown sought out volunteers, a few were quick to jump on board.

At the high school, Candace Patten tried the lesson in her ninth grade civics class while Chris Richter altered it for his senior sociology class. The coalition provides a standard lesson plan, but it needed adaptations to fit grade levels and subject area. Teachers worked the lesson to an angle that fit in with their curriculum, demonstrating the impact poverty has on people in the community.

“It affects everyone,” Patten told her class. “It’s in every town and every city.”

Even the elementary school teachers got on board. At Hatton, a fifth grade class learned about this growing issue as well.

“The lesson plans start at age three and go up to 12th grade,” Ravich said. “People adapt it in all different ways.”

After two years of research on child poverty, Brown said that educating Southington students is just the beginning for him.

“Writing reports and talking do not solve anything, they only point to what we need to do,” he said. “We need to lobby our elected officials heavily and emphasize that this is not a partisan effort, but one everyone can gain from.”

At the moment, the BOE member intends to raise funds to create a documentary about this issue, and he’s hoping the movement will spread nationwide.

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