How do you break the cycle of intergenerational poverty? In Cambridge, there’s one program with proven results that takes the approach of investing in and partnering with individual, low-income students to help them graduate on time, establish fulfilling careers, and lift themselves out of public housing.
The Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) Work Force is a holistic, comprehensive, program that builds networks of learning and support for low-income students living in public housing. Work Force partners with 320 students through nine years of their education, from eighth grade through matriculating students’ post-secondary education.
In Fall 2019, the Cambridge Community Foundation made a major investment in the shared prosperity of our city by committing funding of $150,000 over three years to support Work Force. The Work Force has been a nonprofit partner of the Foundation for over three decades, but this is the Foundation’s most significant investment in the program to date.
Seeing students through high school and college success
The program has four core components: weekly afterschool workshops (social, educational, and vocational); a system of personalized adult support and case management; paid work experiences with public and private sector employers; and postsecondary support and persistence. The CHA Resident Services’ Work Force dates to 1984, though the fourth component of postsecondary support is relatively new – it was integrated into the program in six years ago.
“It became clear to us that we had young people who were struggling to persist in college – academically, socially, financially,” John Lindamood, director of CHA Resident Services, said. “We had to morph the model to start to ameliorate the situation.”