Forum reaches out to low-income voters

Smart from the Start, the group that runs the Johnson Community Center at 68 Annunciation Road, held a forum last week to teach new voters about the importance of voting and what to expect at the voting booth next week.

“We’ve been engaging in voter registration across the city,” board member Cherie Craft told the Gazette.

Smart from the Start serves Boston’s lowest 10 percent income families with resources, tools and support to break cycles of generational poverty and chronic school underachievement. That includes the Oct. 24 forum at the Johnson Center, held in partnership with the national organization Rock the Vote, that educated families and new voters on the importance of voting, especially as representatives of a usually low-turnout demographic: according to Census Bureau data from the election in 2008, provided to the Gazette by Smart from the Start, less than half of adults in households making less than $30,000 per year voted.

At-large City Councilor Felix Arroyo was on hand during the nonpartisan event to talk about his experience as an elected official and to answer any questions from participants.

“The families feel a very special connection with Felix,” Craft said. “He comes out to all our events. He makes a point to engage with them and talk to them. Every family gets his card and his phone number, and he responds every time.”

“The families know that he really cares about their lives, which is especially important when you’re working with a disempowered population,” she said.

Smart from the Start is a family support, community engagement and school readiness nonprofit program. Its mission is to prevent the achievement gap among low-income children in the City of Boston.

“We recognize that if we’re going to break generational [poverty] cycles, family is a catalytic element,” Craft said. “It takes a holistic approach to prevent generational poverty and chronic scholastic underachievement.

City Councilor Felix Arroyo speaks to new voters at the Oct. 24 forum. (Courtesy Photo)

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