Dec. 21, 2018 7:11 am

For young people in underserved communities, transportation can be a barrier to success

Unreliable access to public transportation keeps youth from realizing their dreams, writes Hopeworks Camden's Valerie Buickerood. Here's how to help.

SEPTA's 34 trolley on Baltimore Avenue.

(Photo by Julie Zeglen)

This is a guest post by Valerie Buickerood, Hopeworks Camden's director of engagement and communications.
A lack of access to adequate K-12 education and resources for higher education, unresolved emotional and mental health issues resulting from adverse childhood experiences and trauma, a scarcity of food and healthcare.

These are just a few of these obstacles to achieving success faced by young people in underserved communities.

But one important barrier that we overlook too often is transportation. Whether it’s because of an inability to obtain a driver’s license, a lack of access to a safe and working vehicle, or simply not having the funds to use reliable public transportation, getting to school or a job consistently and on time is often the hardest part of achieving one’s goals.

At Hopeworks Camden, a nonprofit that uses education, technology and entrepreneurship to help young people build strong futures and break the cycle of violence and poverty, we know how these obstacles keep people from reaching their potential.

Many of our youth rely on buses and trains to reach their destinations and achieve their goals, but their fare is often the deciding factor in whether or not a young person even attempts to pursue their dreams.

In particular, we have seen this in the case of Lance and Vimere.

In the beginning of his time at Hopeworks, Lance relied on his brother driving him to the training program every day but soon needed to find another option, so he began to take the bus. Traveling to Camden from his home in Vineland, Lance endures hours of travel through eight zones every day because of his dedication to the program. He believes completing training and obtaining an internship is the key to his future, to transforming his life with a sustainable career. But the cost to ride the bus daily nearly caused him to stop the program before completion.

Thanks to generous support from donors, Hopeworks was able to provide bus passes so Lance could continue. The simple solution of a bus pass will mean the difference between continuing to struggle for a living wage and continuing to working for his dreams.

Vimere told Hopeworks that often, he and his mother are not financially stable enough to afford the $6 that it costs him to take the bus and the train to Camden every day. The price surely adds up. He has even sacrificed lunch money in order to afford the fees associated with his daily commute to better his future. After Hopeworks provided him with bus tickets, Vimere no longer has to worry about whether or not he’ll be able to eat. He can now focus only on working to meet his goals.

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Lance and Vimere are just two examples. There are countless individuals living at or near the poverty line making difficult choices every day that have lasting effects on their ability to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. Similar to not having access to sufficient food on a daily basis, not having affordable access to transportation limits people’s ability to move forward in their lives.

In a nation of wealth, progress and innovation, one would think the solution should be simple. At Hopeworks, we’ve done what we can with the resources of generous friends to simply provide the means for young people to reach their destination and their goals.

This season, when you’re practicing year-end generosity that provides meals and shelter to those in need, remember that it’s equally meaningful to provide the opportunity for long-term transformation through the oft-forgotten challenge of transportation.

To help, you can contribute to Hopeworks’ transportation fund or to one of the many youth development and workforce development organizations in the region doing great work to help people transform their lives.


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