Dallas, Texas – In spite of the considerable strides made in the realm of technology, a large number of communities continue to grapple with the grim reality of eking out a living. Scholarly investigations indicate a strong correlation between lack of education and poverty. This in turn, inexorably leads to a grim cycle of avoidable health complications and, in some instances, involvement in criminal activities.
According to the latest statistics gathered by Buckner International, a local nonprofit devoted to aiding the underprivileged, Dallas reports the most significant count of individuals subsisting at a level 185% below the poverty threshold across the United States. The city ranks second for its population living exactly at the poverty line, surpassed only by Philadelphia.
In stark numerical terms, this translates to an alarming 38% of children in Dallas bearing the crushing burden of poverty. In addition, 28% of these young ones grapple with the severe predicament of nutritional deficiency.
Against this backdrop of systemic hardships, TREE Leadership, a local enterprise, has emerged as a beacon of hope. Conceived in September 2022 by the dynamic motivational orator and leadership development guide, Mar Butler, the organization is committed to mitigating these pressing issues, empowering the inhabitants of underserved communities to rise above their adversities.
The vanguard of this initiative, CEO Butler, elucidates that his firm deploys an innovative two-tier program designed to curtail the deleterious behaviors that are the frequent byproducts of an impoverished socioeconomic milieu. The intended effect of this initiative is to instill resilience in individuals, enabling them to circumvent the systemic issues that continually perpetuate their current state of hardship.
“TREE Leadership provides practical solutions to adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 25 to reduce the risks of crime, poverty and recidivism that reside in low socioeconomic areas of Dallas,” he said to Dallas Examiner.
In this context, the acronym TREE stands for Truth, Restore, Empower, and Evolve, as indicated by Butler. The objectives he highlighted were the establishment of integrity and accountability, fostering healing servitude, and including the youth and young adults.
He defined it as an organization committed to developing leadership in communities throughout the year, primarily focusing on those aged between 12 and 25, who reside in underprivileged or marginalized areas.
The provision of credible, evidence-based packages and schemes aimed at establishing an ecosystem inclusive of other organizations and local community leaders is among its offerings. The intention, Butler pointed out, is to build a supportive brand that could deter the narrative of transitioning from school to prison, with particular attention to the complex issues of violent crime, poverty, and recidivism.
Butler elaborated on how the program operates through the integration and collaboration with organizations devoted to aiding students in realizing their life’s goals.
There are branches of affiliates, he conveyed, that actively involve communities through various teaching and facilitation programs, venturing into neighborhoods and liaising with the local education systems. Assessment of data from parks and parking recreations, he shared, is an integral part of the process. Programs are then implemented that resonate with children of age groups 12 to 17 and 18 to 25, aiming to connect with them during crucial mental and emotional development phases. Meanwhile, parents or other household members are also incorporated, offering comprehensive resources. Butler emphasized that the primary goal is to extend the necessary support to these individuals, thereby providing alternatives to life-changing choices previously made due to adverse circumstances.
An innovative program titled ‘The Coming of Age Kit’ is paving the way for the enhancement of life skills for young individuals ranging from 12 to 25 years of age, who have matured in the unique circumstances of single-parent families or have experienced a complete lack of parental guidance in marginalized communities.
Diving into the complexities of the program, it grapples with an assortment of critical life domains. The initiative inculcates a sense of dignity in personal appearance, encouraging the young participants to imbue their outward look with a reflection of their internal character. The broader discourse of self-perception and self-expression is extensively addressed, spotlighting the significance of personal identity and individual expression in the formation of a confident, well-adjusted adult.
The program is far from skin-deep, delving into the robust issue of conflict management. The goal is to arm these young people with the tools and strategies required to navigate interpersonal disputes and societal tension with grace and resilience. The project also emphasizes the long view, fostering skills in forward-thinking and meticulous planning.
Financial literacy, a frequently underappreciated aspect of practical education, is also underscored in this comprehensive program. Modules such as ‘Financial Education 101 and 201′ are aimed at equipping participants with the knowledge to make informed financial decisions, a crucial element in breaking the cycle of financial vulnerability.
Butler spoke about how the forum served as a platform for us to curb violence through intervention. Once that contract was concluded, the focus shifted to devising additional ways to introduce preventative measures. The aim was to tackle factors leading specific individuals towards a perilous path, and to strive towards preventing that journey, he conveyed. His comment on curbing the prison-to-pipeline route led to the inception of the Tree Leadership organization.
He highlighted their approach of conducting pre and post surveys to engage with their clients.
In his words, the nonprofit’s target population comprises children of incarcerated parents, individuals who have availed government assistance and reside in low-income households, and those who, despite attending academic or educational institutions, might have some criminal background or experiences and live in impoverished or marginalized communities. These are the people who have a higher chance of entering the school-to-prison pipeline, and are thus the focus of our tailored programs aimed at reaching out to them. The nonprofit designs special packages to get them engaged.
The non-profit’s efforts aren’t limited to students. They also work extensively with the students’ families.
“We have what we call a social working piece, which is we do a needs assessment,” he added. “And then we do a success strategy component within the program. What we’re doing is reaching out to them because none of our programs are less than six weeks, none of them. Because we want to build a relationship and really retain them. So while we’re doing that, it provides us enough time to actually do what needs assessment and success strategy, to where now we know from the information that has been provided, we know exactly not just what they need, but what their family members need, right.”
“And so we’re able to pair that with our community partners who are able to do their social work and provide the therapy, provide the counseling or whatever resources that they may need, clothing, transportation, workforce development job, I mean, we name it. So we have a plethora of resources that can help us to provide wraparound support, not just for the participants, but for their family members as well within the household. Because our whole overall objective is to build a sustainable relationship as these participants began to progress later on in life for the better.”
TREE Leadership will celebrate its one-year anniversary in the fall. It has served more than 100 individuals within the last year.
“We are looking to serve more because we will begin our summer project on July 1,” he stated. “So once that kicks in, it is really seasonal.”