By: Kyle Baltuch, SVP of Equality of Opportunity, Florida Chamber Foundation
Opportunity, it’s funny how that word can take on so many different meanings depending on the audience. For many, talk of opportunity lets the mind run wild with endless possibilities. Whether it be a big promotion, the chance to travel, or even a great deal on an item you’ve always wanted to purchase, opportunity tends to take on a grand meaning. However, we often overlook the opportunities we are afforded every day.
If you woke up this morning in your own home, made breakfast while you got your kids ready for school, dropped them off on your drive to work, ran out during lunch for a routine doctor’s appointment, stopped by the grocery story to grab your ingredients for dinner on the way home, then tucked your children into bed while your spouse cleaned up after dinner, you and your family benefited from countless opportunities in an otherwise mundane day.
You see, for those born in the “wrong” zip code, opportunities, or the lack thereof, are much more fundamental and basic. Take 32304 in Tallahassee, Florida. This community has a median household income of $23,638 and 1,731 (48.6%) of all children are living at or below the federal poverty line. But the challenges for residents of 32304 run much deeper. For example, much of 32304 falls into a food desert, there are no Federally Qualified Health Centers within the zip code, 87.7% of households are occupied by renters, 16.5% of the working population relies on something other than a personal vehicle to get to work (public transit, walking, bicycle, taxi, etc), which is more than three times higher than the percentage for Leon county as a whole, and 71.8% of all family households are headed by a single parent.
With this information, anyone can see that a child born into 32304 is significantly more likely to be met with challenges than opportunities, but as a business community, we can change that stark reality. Through the Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative, the Florida Chamber Foundation is seeking business and community partners in every community throughout Florida to uncover and address the unique challenges each zip code faces. With a focus on ending generational poverty, ensuring access to high quality early learning opportunities, and closing racial achievement gaps, we have created a holistic approach to ensure every Floridan, in every zip code, has an equal opportunity at earned success.
While the story of 32304 is eye opening, it is also a story of hope. Through the Florida Equality of Opportunity’s Florida Prosperity Project adoption program, Tallahassee Community College has accepted the challenge head on and is working with a variety of business and community leaders to address the root cause issues facing 32304. We encourage you to do the same in your community.
Opportunity, the defined meaning is “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” Through data driven decision making, collective action, and business leadership, we can ensure every child has an opportunity.