Episode 47 – Imago Dei- Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Today is August 26th my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”. This week we take you to a top performing middle school in the heart of downtown and make indoor football official for Tucson.

If you weren’t looking for it, you’d probably miss it. Nestled between a barber shop and a parking garage in Downtown is one of the best performing middle schools in the city. Imago Dei Middle School was founded in 2005 by The Rev. Susan Anderson-Smith and The Rev. Anne Sawyer to address inequality of educational and life opportunities for low-income children in Tucson.

Built on Episcopalian principles of social justice, Imago Dei’s purpose is to break a cycle of poverty through education and help students achieve their full potential. The student body is comprised of boys and girls grades 5-8 from diverse Tucson families, all of whom qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program under federal rules. There is no other qualification for admission. Currently, they are 100% minority with a large population of refugees from African conflicts.

Despite the challenging background and limited resources of the families, Imago Dei students excel. 90% of them go on to graduate high school and 80% of the alumni are pursuing college or career training. Those stats far exceed Pima County Averages for low-income students.

We sat down with the Head of School, Cameron Taylor, to get a glimpse of what has made them so successful.

Cameron gave us a thorough background of the founders and their vision for this model. He also discussed the importance of supporting the graduates and their families as part of the success in breaking cycles of poverty. The school is open to all who meet the economic criteria but is an Episcopalian School so we discussed how spirituality and religion are addressed throughout the day and you can hear more from those conversations in our extended interview on Facebook.

There is so much more to this story, to the connections the school has forged with its downtown neighbors, and Imago Dei’s plans for more workshop driven family support activities. So we will be back to school later this year and check in with a progress report.