Corpus Christi Parish in Stone Mountain, Georgia, is located about 10–15 miles east of Atlanta and serves several surrounding towns. This parish is unique among tCI communities because it is ethnically and culturally diverse and has a large refugee population from as many as 12 countries. In fact, this area has received more than 16,000 refugees in the last 10 years, more than the rest of Georgia combined. Of the parish’s nonrefugee population, approximately 66% are African American.
The average annual income in the community is about $40,000, which is significantly lower than the state average of $63,000 and the national average of $70,000. Worse still, 23% of community residents live below the poverty line, and 16% require SNAP benefits to help feed their families.
These economic struggles are due in large part to unemployment. From 2007–2011, the average unemployment rate in the Corpus Christi community was about 1.5 times the state and national rates: 17% compared to 12% statewide, and to 10% nationally for the same time period.
Limited ability to speak English contributes to unemployment and underemployment in the community. On average, 23% of area residents speak a language other than English at home. In areas with a high density of refugees, this number climbs to 48%. Of those, more than 60% speak English less than very well. Without a solid grasp of English and a familiarity with doing business in English, many residents struggle to get and maintain adequate employment to support their families.
Corpus Christi is also a relatively young community; 30% of residents are under the age of 20, with 9% under the age of five. Because of this fact, Corpus Christi’s programs are particularly crucial because they make a positive impact on kids early on to enable them to stay on a good track heading into adulthood.
Many of the community’s young people are growing up in rented homes run by a single parent. In 2011, 32% of households had a single parent, which was double the national average. This means that more children are living in homes with a higher likelihood of being below the poverty line and having little-to-no adult supervision during nonschool hours.
The area also has one of the highest crime rates in the state of Georgia. From 2010 to 2012, the county consistently ranked second in total crimes in the Atlanta metropolitan area, putting kids at greater risk if they are not positively engaged outside of school hours.
Given all of these realities, it’s not surprising that elementary schools and high schools in the area have much higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students and students with limited English proficiency than other schools in the state. In fact, some schools in refugee-heavy areas have nearly 80% of students with limited English proficiency. District schools here also have college readiness scores well below the rest of the state; this reality is accompanied by worse dropout, truancy, and attendance rates. In addition, less than 20% of the area’s population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with a nearly 30% national benchmark.
With a steady influx of refugees and consistent economic challenges, there’s always a lot to be done in the area. The Corpus Christi staff continues to make a significant difference in the lives of the people and their wide range of needs. Whether it’s helping refugee families learn English or keeping youth positively engaged and off the street, the Corpus Christi community consistently adapts its outreach to the needs of the people.