The Index in the Northeast on Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday will see two primaries in the Northeast – Massachusetts and Vermont. The Northeast hasn’t been hit as hard by economic turbulence as other parts of the country.  Yet communities here still suffer, and Opportunity Nation empowers community leaders to affect day-to-day change in their communities.  It is these Opportunity Leaders who create the grassroots reality of economic opportunity and social mobility for their families, neighborhoods, and cities.

Michelle Quinn-Davidson, the Director of the Academy for Transformation at YouthBuild USA, is committed to empowering low income youth by helping them work “toward their GED or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable housing in their communities.”  This program emphasizes “leadership, development, community service, and the creation of a positive mini-community of adults and youth committed to each other’s success.”

The Opportunity Index is helping her better compare her home community in Brookline, MA – which receives an A grade in opportunity – to the communities in which her 300 YouthBuild programs reside.  The Index is giving her the tools to see what building blocks are needed in those communities across the country.

Immediately following Massachusetts in the states’ opportunity rankings is its neighbor to the north, Vermont, in 4th place among the nation’s 50 states.  While this is cause for much optimism, we can’t neglect the fact that there is still work to be done. Vermont’s 5.6% unemployment rate still represents many who are out of work who’d like to find a stable job.

Despite low poverty rates, the Index indicates that the state could benefit from additional investment in education.  As a state with one of the strongest libertarian traditions in the nation, it is critical that Vermont not overlook those who were most effected by the economic collapse despite the relative stability of its largely homogonous population.  Opportunity Nation is engaging leaders on the ground in Vermont to help prove that communities can take care of one another, and that inspired individuals can affect positive change.

Rachel Sider is an Opportunity Scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont who is using the platform of her campus to promote access to opportunity in her community.  Sider recognized that positive educational marks for her county on the Opportunity Index do not preclude real social challenges, and she saw “the need for a student initiative on campus aimed at college access in the surrounding Vermont community.”  As such her and fellow students have led the charge for “a more local and grassroots initiative to provide assistance to high school students in Middlebury.”

Without leaders like Sider pursuing the expansion of opportunity and the prevalence of social mobility throughout all cleavages of society, the OpportunityNation campaign would struggle to generate real change.  Opportunity Scholars continue to be empowered through optimism to be an example to all.

The Index is carrying a powerful message through counties across the country.  In the Northeast we can see much hope and optimism in comparison to other regions.  But those walking the streets and cities each and every day know that there are those in our communities who are not yet able to share in that wealth.  Together, we can spread opportunity to make social mobility a reality for everyone.

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