North Queens resident Rachel Morgenstern has always been a giver. After earning her bachelor's degree at CUNY Hunter College, she entered the graduate school of education and began working at the Welfare Rights Initiative. The program promotes student activism, leadership-training organizations, and navigates students to stay in school.
“We work to promote access to education for all, but especially men and women who receive some form of public assistance and who are told they cannot go to school due to mandatory work requirements,” said Morgenstern.
The non-profit organization is located in Hunter College with many clients in Queens and throughout NYC. For their clients that do receive public assistance, such as welfare, food stamps, etc., 90 percent of them tend to be women with children. Over 50 percent of them do not have a high school diploma, so WRI works with them to make sure that the 35-hour of mandatory work per week to receive the benefits can be exchanged for education, internships and externships credit.
“A lot of our clients are told that they can’t go to school due to the mandatory work hours they need to fulfill from their public assistance funds,” said Morgenstern. “We’re here to change that.”
To further help their clients receive education while on public assistance, WRI wrote up the Work and Study Internship bill which was passed in 2000 and renewed every two years since, but this year it will be written as a permanent law.
With that in place, they have allowed their client’s education, internship and externship hours count as credit for their mandatory work hours.
“The goal is to not assign work during school hours like the program has done before, rather count the school hours as credits toward the work requirements so to receive quality education,” said Morgenstern.
Statistics prove that 80 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree move away from the poverty line and become active in their communities versus the ones who don't receive quality education.
You can learn more on their website.