City Must Draw on Its Strong Immigrant Community

Originally printed in The Boston Globe

August 4, 2011
Bob Hildreth (Founder and Executive Director, Families United in Educational Leadership, Letter to the Editor)

RE Edward Glaeser’s July 28 op-ed "Educate cities back to life" makes some good points about education, immigration, and urban prosperity. However, I believe there’s another element to consider.
There’s no arguing that cities with large college-educated populations generally have lower unemployment, higher income levels, and long-term economic growth. But pointing to the sources of success for cities such as Cambridge and Somerville as measures of the economic and social challenges facing Lawrence ignores important realities.
Lawrence’s growth appears to be based on its strong immigrant community. The members of the community provide each other with social networks, potential employment, housing, and a common culture. The city must capitalize on that community strength and the potential of its immigrant parents.
As the founder of an educational nonprofit rooted in families and matched savings, I am an advocate for family involvement in schools. When families engage their children’s education, they make things happen, as evidenced by the $200,000 in college funds saved by low-income families in our program last year.
There’s no question that the path to prosperity is largely through education, as Glaeser says. But the community and parents must do the heavy lifting. Only then will we see a clear, sustainable connection among immigrants, education, and prosperity in Lawrence.
Bob Hildreth
Founder and executive director
Families United in Educational Leadership