Yesterday, we released the 2015 version of our data bulletin at the annual County Legislative Breakfast on Children and Youth.
As the Director of Data Analysis, I had the opportunity to speak briefly about the data bulletin. I always welcome those opportunities, because I find that giving data with context often helps people find meaning behind those numbers. There’s such a deluge of information out there that it’s necessary to stop and ask: Which data is actually important?
And for us at Westchester Children’s Association, we ask: Which data will actually make people take pause, and consider what’s going on with our children today? We wade into the deluge of numbers so you don’t have to.
While the bulletin provides a summary of key takeaways (see page 6), some of the most striking statistics include:
- One in three Westchester public school students receive free or reduced lunch.
- Less than half of Westchester students are ready for college or career.
- An estimated 12% of Westchester’s youth ages 16-24 are neither working nor in school (referred to as “disconnected youth”).
- There continues to be great income and education inequality in our Westchester communities.
Many think of Westchester as an affluent, well-to-do county, so these statistics can be a bit of a shock. However, for many others, these statistics aren’t a surprise at all. As a result, we’re often asked, why bring them up at all? Why keep repeating the same story year after year? This is an especially touchy subject for communities where the struggle to raise a family can be most formidable.
So why bring these statistics to light?
It all comes down to this belief: we believe progress is possible and we can do better. These numbers represent the past; they do not have to represent the future. To stick our heads in the sand is to deny that the problem exists, and that would be a disservice to our children.
At Westchester’s Children’s Association, we get frustrated when people say, “Let’s help our children beat the odds.” Why? Because it implies that those awful odds, whether it’s low graduation rate or high poverty rate, will still be there for other children to suffer and endure.
It’s not enough to “beat the odds.” Our job is to change the odds, so ALL children get the opportunity to succeed.
That’s what our work at Westchester Children’s Association is based on. Throughout our 100 years, WCA has made real improvements in the lives of children and youth in the county. While the details change over time, the basic needs of our kids remain the same: nutritious food, safe housing, quality healthcare, access to youth programs and a good education. We ask parents, community members, our nonprofit partners, and our elected officials to join us in changing the odds for our children, one step at a time.
I need to thank my colleague Anna Wright for her contributions to the data bulletin. She is closing in on her first anniversary with WCA, and her ability to work with data, much less me, never ceases to amaze me. I also want to thank Tara Framer and Madeleine Lopeman of Tara Framer Design for leading the design efforts of the Data Bulletin. Without the efforts of these women, as well as the rest of the WCA staff, the Data Bulletin would not be in your hands today.
Major support for this publication was provided by The John P. and Constance A. Curran Charitable Foundation and The Westchester Community Foundation.