Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI) brought together staff, students, and alumni for 3 days, November 14-16, for a planning retreat. This weekend of community building and strategizing enabled WRI members to reconnect to their organizational vision and each other. Retreat attendees began the development of an outreach and educational campaign that will ensure all New Yorkers in need fully understand the implications and opportunities of recent policy changes.
Last spring New York State enacted a law that allows 4-year college to count as core activity for people receiving welfare. The subsequent changes in New York City’s welfare policy are exciting and will help stabilize New York City families who are experiencing financial crisis.
WRI recognizes that improving access to education and training is a priority because it provides a sure route out of poverty. The organization is committed to building stronger relationships with the NYC Human Resources Administration by sharing its unique approach to leadership development. Through this work, WRI hopes to expedite implementation of the new law by focusing on collaborative partnerships with city leaders, advocates, and other organizations dedicated to finding humane and effective solutions to longstanding education and welfare policy issues.
Here are a few reflections from participants at this important gathering:
Mary Hughes, Cohort 17 – “It was a weekend of inspiring conversation on the future of WRI and how we as alumni can stay connected and work together to further WRI’s message and hopes beyond our immediate community. We also established an Alumni Professional Network as a way for all of us to connect professionally and also to keep each other updated on personal developments and life changes.”
Pat Ramirez, Cohort 18 – “FIRED UP! ENLIGHTENED! EXCITED! I am so thankful this weekend happened. As we plan WRI’s 20th ANNIVERSARY GALA to celebrate its LONGEVITY in student activism and to strategize 4-year college law implementation in NYC and NYS, I ask, WHAT is the purpose of KEEPING counterproductive laws on the books? These past three days REAFFIRMED TO ME that we all can contribute to eradicate the miss-education about one another, sometimes charged with harmful stereotypes about entire populations that in turn, at the end of the day, deplete the soul. Without community we are nothing.”
Guided by community support and the bold visions of our student leaders, WRI is restoring hope and expanding options for at-risk families across New York City. WRI believes that everyone has the right to be considered “college material” regardless of their socioeconomic status, and these new policies will help make that truth a reality.