Newsroom
'Use your talents to change the world'

YMCA’s TJ Joyce discusses poverty’s impact on education with SOE faculty, staff and students

TJ Joyce, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Richmond, spoke to about 60 VCU SOE faculty, staff and students.

TJ Joyce, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Richmond, spoke to about 60 VCU SOE faculty, staff and students.

The VCU School of Education’s “Understanding and Impacting Poverty” series kicked off with a spirited and uplifting discussion led by Tim 'TJ' Joyce, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Richmond.

“As teachers, we want to change the world,” Joyce told about 60 faculty, staff and students of the school. “The problem is we have so many forces like poverty working against us, but if you keep working, you can use your talents to change the world.”

The discussion began with a brief introduction from Dean Andrew Daire, followed by Daire asking Joyce to explain how poverty intersects with education.

In his response, Joyce – as he did many times – referenced a book: "Our Kids: the American Dream in Crisis," by Robert Putnam.

“Putnam says that a teacher in an impoverished school will teach an average of 3-1/2 hours less each week than a teacher in an affluent school. Over an entire school year, that’s equal to one month of teaching. Now, extrapolate that out from kindergarten through the ninth grade, and that impoverished child is already one year behind the affluent child,” said Joyce.

"You’re dedicated to making the world a better place. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here.”
– TJ Joyce

“That’s just one of the ways that poverty impacts education.”

Joyce said that the YMCA addresses educational issues impacted by poverty by directing more of its resources into the areas of greatest need. For example, they reduce their student-to-counselor ratio from a normal 12-to-1, down to 10-to-1. In some instances, such as with their summer programs, the student-to-counselor ratio is down to 4-to-1.

Joyce cited the success of the YMCA’s year-round programs at Woodville and Oak Grove-Bellemeade elementary schools in Richmond’s East End and South Richmond areas, respectively. Both programs combined provide fully subsidized after-school and summer camp care to over 150 children.

Joyce said that providing year-round care for children in these areas supports a core belief of the YMCA. “We believe if you work with children year-round, you have a better chance of impacting them, their families, and all the other things involved in the complex issue of poverty,” he said.

Following Q&A with Dean Daire, attendees shared some thoughtful and personal stories.

Following Q&A with Dean Daire, attendees shared some thoughtful and personal stories with the group.

He reminded attendees that it’s a critical need in a city where earlier this month, nine fatal shootings occurred in just eight days. “For some of those children and their families, the YMCA is the most consistent thing in their lives,” he said.

Following a Q&A with Dean Daire, Joyce asked attendees why they had decided to study in the VCU School of Education, which resulted in several very personal – and sometimes emotional – responses.

Joyce then challenged faculty, staff and students to expand their impact in the Richmond community by “getting in the game.”

“There’s more to be learned than just in the classroom. The YMCA is at 50 different school sites in Richmond, and we serve more than 2,000 students every day,” he said.

“Use us as leverage to help you become better teachers before you even graduate. If you’re looking for teacher residency programs, internships, or want to work with special needs students, we’ve got opportunities for you.”

He concluded with more of an inspirational challenge.

“You come from, and are going into, the teaching profession. There is no nobler profession. You’re dedicated to making the world a better place. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here.”

The next event in the series will be held Wednesday, October 11 beginning at 12:30 p.m., as follow up discussion.

Some of the books referenced by TJ Joyce:

  • "Deepening the Soul for Justice," by Bethany H. Hoang
  • "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption," by Bryan Stephenson
  • "Our Kids: the American Dream in Crisis," by Robert Putnam
  • "Richmond’s Unhealed History," by Benjamin Campbell
  • "Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations," by Thomas L. Friedman
  • "Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It," by Robert D. Lupton


Below: "Understanding and Impacting Poverty" discussion, featuring TJ Joyce.
(from YouTube; Total Running Time: 1 hour 15 minutes)