A Legacy of Combating Rural Poverty

Rural communities throughout the United States continue to face and endure the causes and effects of poverty. More than 50 years ago, Robert F. Kennedy, as both a senator and a presidential candidate, took on this cause, working to eradicate poverty and create equal economic and social opportunities for all, regardless of race or gender, fully immersing himself in these areas in order to best understand the problems faced and felt on a daily basis. In each of these areas, Bobby Kennedy centered his interactions around children, taking the time to connect with the youngest citizens in need.

Today, according to Save the Children’s 2018 report, children living in impoverished rural areas experience a degree of hardship and challenges unmatched by any other group. Access to medical care is limited, nutrition is compromised, and advanced academic opportunities are neither facilitated nor achieved.

The Highlander Center, led by Ash-Lee Henderson and Allyn Maxfield-Steel, is carrying on the work of addressing rural poverty. Utilizing popular education, cultural and intergenerational organizing, language justice, land- and place-based education, and participatory action research, the center puts power in the hands of the people seeking to overcome the problems in their daily lives.

Marian Wright Edelman is the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund. An activist and humanitarian, she’s devoted a lifetime to speaking out on behalf of disadvantaged Americans, leaving no child behind.

After studying clips of and writings by Edelman, researching the work of the Highlander Center, and reading Save the Children’s 2018 report, students will research how rural poverty affects health, education, employment, and housing. Each student will “become a defender” by creating an awareness and action plan that works to combat these issues. Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, this lesson plan fits into either virtual or in-person classrooms, with opportunities for discussion and collaboration on Zoom or with classmates.