Students at Lyndale Community School in Minneapolis, Minn. have big plans for their future. We asked some third and fourth graders, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They said:
“What I want to be when I grow up is a vet, because I really love animals.”
“I want to be a writer when I grow up.”
“I want to teach kids and I want to help them learn.”
Inside the school building and beyond, these students have an entire community working to make sure they achieve their dreams.
[Watch our video to hear more from Lyndale, community leaders and education investors:]
Generation Next, a cradle to career partnership in Minneapolis/St. Paul, works to connect all community resources around common goals so every student has what they need to succeed. Community organizations, philanthropists, early childhood programs, business, local government, colleges and universities all have role to play.
“Public schools are the face of the community. If you live in a community and your public school is failing, that is the community’s responsibility to help that school be better,” says Billy Menz, a teacher at Lyndale.
64 more communities across the country are coming together to support students and close achievement gaps in a similar way, using a common data-driven approach to collective impact: The StriveTogether Theory of Action. And they’re seeing results that have drawn the attention of education investors like Target.
“Everybody has limited resources,” says Kate Mohan, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Target Corporation. “As funders we like to think we have a lot of resources. But it really is a limited pot. So what Target likes to do is invest in projects that we know work. When we saw the kind of rigor behind the design of StriveTogether we really felt like it was something that we could make a bet on.”
In August of 2015, StriveTogether, in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, launched the StriveTogether Leadership Program. This nine-month program is an in-depth training for the six Cradle to Career partnerships of StriveTogether’s Accelerator Fund in Annie E. Casey’s Results Based Leadership, a practice that has changed social outcomes for communities across the nation. This blog from Linda Johnson, Ph.D. Executive Director, College and Career Readiness for Dallas Independent School District is the first in a series of reflections from participants in the program.
The more I learn the more I yearn to know.
I try to consciously be a student of life, each moment of every day. In pursuit of deep experiences I’ve switched careers—from retail management to museum executive to public school executive and adjunct professor. I’ve gone back for formal schooling twice as an adult—first for my MBA and then for a Ph.D. in public and urban administration. I’ve had the pleasure of working with amazing people worldwide from whom I’ve gratefully learned so much. Including the Commit! Partnership, the cradle to career partnership in Dallas County, Texas, who I work with on a regular basis as we join regional partners dedicated to increasing successful college and career outcomes for the students we serve.
In my district, the Dallas Independent School District, we serve nearly 160,000 students—and ninety percent live in poverty. It is essential that the community work together to ensure successful transitions for these students from high school to postsecondary education and careers. My role is to shepherd the district’s college and career readiness programs and initiatives. The college and career readiness vision for our graduates is that they will be capable of earning a living wage in a career field that offers advancement and lifelong learning opportunities. That means working with educators, colleges, technical training organizations, community groups, employers, state workforce and education agencies, and chambers of commerce, among many others—including the students themselves! Commit! serves as a critical thought partner and convening organization that allows this network to work toward community goals.
These many organizations and groups have an staggering variety of individual and shared goals, visions, missions, and values. Plus, we are all human and bring our personal perspectives on the world (and our sometimes very healthy egos) to these same meetings and conversations. Through my past participation in local, regional, state, national, and international groups, I’ve learned that we rarely do much more than make an incremental difference in whatever we are trying to do. As humans we are very good at starting things, framing issues and positing simple solutions to complex problems. But how do we break through all these issues to make the world a better place?
I am in the middle of a tremendous learning experience this year through the StriveTogether Leadership Program I am attending with Commit!. These StriveTogether results-based leaderships training sessions are changing the way I look at and plan my work in the school district. Specifically, the training allows me to plan meetings that produce higher-level, critical thinking among the participants due to knowledge of adaptive and technical challenges and the inclusion of powerful questions. In a very different way I am getting to know my Dallas community partners as well as the wonderful people from across the country who are also immersed in this experience. We are learning new strategies for conducting planning meetings to produce focused outcomes and deeper dialogue.
Learning is an uncomfortable process. At a recent meeting with my team—my Directors of Advanced Academic Services, Career and Technical Education, and Postsecondary Success, Magnet Schools and Special Programs—I nervously conducted a planning session where I put those strategies into play. I planned the meeting for hours beforehand—clearly defining the goals, the process, and the tools needed. The morning of the meeting I was almost as nervous as I was taking my comprehensive exams with no notes or textbooks.
But my amateur efforts paid off: I learned so much by listening to my team members as I guided them with “powerful questions.” They were able to identify the “adaptive, technical, and hybrid challenges” present in our work on college and career readiness. They eagerly learned about “mental models.” At the end of the session I felt deeply grateful for their shared expertise as well as for my Annie E. Casey Foundation and StriveTogether coaches. Our next meeting will involve all of their teams as we work to create successful outcomes for our students.
Linda Johnson, Ph.D. is the Executive Director, College and Career Readiness for Dallas Independent School District.
Jeff Edmondson, managing director of StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network and founding executive director of StrivePartnership in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, has a long history with systems change. But he hasn’t always known how to define this holy grail of community partnerships, and he’s still gathering insights to bring communities closer to achieving their goals.
According to Jeff, he’s had “had a decade to reflect on what… it takes to achieve systems change,” and he shares his observations in a recent blog for The Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists. Jeff believes that systems change is more than a buzzword, and his blog offers recommendations for those hoping to make it a reality.
Network in the News: transitions, access to developmental screenings, urban education, and science workshops
Network members speak up on the importance of collective impact, access to developmental screenings and quality education, the importance of industry-led science and math programs in school, and more, in this week’s Network in the News.
- The superintendent of Onsted Community Schools in Lenawee County, Michigan, highlights the important work of Lenawee Cradle to Career Partnership and invites local leaders and community members to get involved.
- ImpactTulsa‘s founder and CEO Kathy Taylor steps down, with plans to transition to a new role in the partnership: Chair of the Leadership Council.
- Thanks to funding from the Medical College of Wisconsin’s (MCW) Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin (AHW) Endowment, Milkwaukee Succeeds, in partnership with The United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, will promote access and awareness of the importance of developmental screenings for children under age six living in the city of Milkwaukee.
- Last week Danae Davis, executive director of Milwaukee Succeeds, testified on the state of urban education in the city of Milwaukee.
- In partnership with ADM, Education Coalition of Macon County will bring a series of workshops focusing on industry-led science and mathematics programs to area teachers.
If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to email@example.com. We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.
In his last State of the Union Address, President Obama noted the strong connection between adequate preparation and self-sufficiency, saying that “real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job.”
Recognizing the importance of this connection, StriveTogether and Living Cities launched the Prepare Learning Circle (PLC) with five StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities to explore how a collective impact approach can be used to strengthen the crucial link between education and employment.
The PLC was also tasked to provide a recommendation of how to measure impact in the career end of the cradle to career continuum. StriveTogether partnerships are already working to improve six core education outcomes, from kindergarten readiness to post-secondary completion, but measuring career success has been a little more challenging.
After a year of developing strategies that show measurable progress on improved employment, StriveTogether and Living Cities have published the PLC’s recommendation in a new paper, “Preparing Students for Successful Employment: A Recommendation for Measuring Impact.”
This paper proposes a common employment outcome that StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities could work to improve, as well as indicators to measure impact along the way:
- Recommended Employment Outcome Goal: A post-secondary graduate will be employed on a path to self-sufficiency
- Recommended core indicator to measure: Number or percent of post-secondary graduates employed one year after graduation
- Recommended contributing indicators to watch:
- Percentage of graduates employed in high-demand sectors
- The unemployment rate for graduates
Now, the five partnerships in the PLC are testing these recommendations while piloting strategies to ensure that every student has the training and connections they need to be on the pathway to self-sufficiency:
- Partners for a Competitive Workforce in Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky (a StrivePartnership partner) are working to close the skills gaps in their community by building career pathways for students. They are doing this by aligning education and training programs with local business needs to ensure that students develop the skills they need to get in-demand jobs and advance in their careers.
- Big Goal Collaborative, in partnership with Northeast Indiana Works, is working to build the capacity and effectiveness of the region’s technical education system for both high school students and adult learners. Recognizing the importance of manufacturing to the region, this strategy currently is seeking to ensure that career technical educational centers are offering classes in advanced manufacturing and related programs.
- Thrive Chicago’s strong commitment to serving Opportunity Youth opened the door for them to align and administer the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, a national coalition of leading US-based companies launched in July 2015 by the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, Starbucks, and the Schultz Family Foundation. Through this opportunity Thrive Chicago will work to engage 16 to 24-year-olds who face systemic barriers to jobs and education, through apprenticeships, internships, training programs, and both part-time and full-time jobs.
- Mission: Graduate is using a three-prong approach to help students in Central New Mexico get on the path to self-sufficiency. The first prong seeks to align educational curriculum to the needs of regional employers; the second will increase career exploration for students – from middle school through college, including job shadowing, mentorships, internships, and externships – and the third prong of their approach focuses on an Employer Scorecard which allows local employers to track their organizational efforts in support of the goal.
- All Hands Raised in Portland, Oregon convened a cross-sector task force to launch a coordinated effort to increase the number of local high school students moving into careers in manufacturing and construction. The task orce identified increasing awareness and positive perceptions of these careers among high school counselors, teachers and school leaders and scaling effective programs that have shown proven success of connecting students to career pathways.
Through these pilots, these communities will determine if the recommended core and contributing indicators are accurate measures of the outcome. They will also refine their strategies and measure results using continuous improvement, and vet the ability for cradle to career partnerships to have impact on this outcome. If proven effective, the common employment goal and measures will be recommended for adoption as a seventh outcome on the StriveTogether cradle to career continuum.
Given that the work of the five communities in the PLC will provide a small sample of data to evaluate, StriveTogether is looking for other Cradle to Career Network partnerships to help test the recommendation and develop strategies for moving it forward. For more information, please contact Hany White at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kaci Roach at email@example.com.
Network in the News: Improving graduation rates, college readiness, equal opportunity, and collective impact
It’s a new year and Network partners aren’t wasting a single minute, ushering in 2016 by looking forward to graduation day and the promise of collective impact. Here’s the latest installment of Network in the News:
- Education Coalition of Macon County is hard at work developing a teacher pipeline of Illinois State University graduates into high need, urban areas like Decatur, Illinois and ensuring future college graduates have the resources and expertise they need to effectively apply for and secure college scholarships and federal aid by inviting high school students and their parents to FAFSA and college information nights.
- In a whole-school focused effort to retain seniors and lower high school dropout rates, ImpactTulsa hosted a GradNation Community summit.
- Achieve Brown County received a nod from departing United Way chairman Steve Matheys for their work in bringing together local organizations to drive a cradle-to-career infrastructure in in Brown County, Wisconsin.
- A new initiative focused on improving educational and career opportunities for young men and women of color in Albany, New York complements Albany Promise‘s cradle-to-career approach.
- The collective impact approach of the StriveTogether Cradle-to-Career Network was the focus of a recent meeting of community leaders in Pensacola, Florida, interested in economic development and educational partnerships.
If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.
A recent feature article in Ed Week explored the future of big data and analytics in education. Given this is a huge focus of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, I read it with great interest. I was encouraged by how much investment and expertise is being dedicated to building the technology infrastructure – mostly the software needed – in order to better personalize learning.
But there was one glaring omission: we can make data available to those working to meet the needs of individual children, but how can we be sure they will know how to use it?
Over the last ten years, one of the primary lessons we’ve learned is that the social sector lacks the knowledge on how to use data even more than it lacks access to data in the first place. In Cincinnati, the birthplace of the flagship partnership that helped define collective impact, we developed a robust software platform to put data in the hands of educators on their academic progress and all the support services they receive inside and outside the classroom. While far from perfect, it became clear that the technology product we provided to access data was not going to be nearly enough. We had to hire someone to work with team members in schools and external partners to make sure the software was used to inform instructions and programming. In short, we spent lots of time and effort fixing a far easier challenge – the software – instead of the most critical and challenging problem – human capital.
As the national Cradle to Career Network grew to 65 members we started to see this play out again and again: local partners became so focused on the technology that they forgot the user. There are a host of startups in Silicon Valley that have failed for this exact same reason and, quite frankly, the collective impact movement faced a similar scenario. To avoid this, we started focusing a majority of our work on making sure the capacity (human capital) and capability (individual competency) existed in communities that were serious about achieving results at scale. These partnerships would then be poised to take advantage of new and exciting developments like the work of AltSchool, the company featured in the Ed Week article, that is putting unprecedented data in the hands of educators, such as patterns of group work in the classroom or individual flags for students falling behind.
We cheer their work and can’t wait to see what this innovation can do. We agree for the most part with AltSchool’s co-founder and chief technology officer Bharat Mediratta when he says that, “We will get to the point where we have the same kind of big data opportunities that Google has… and we’ll be able to take advantage of them.” But the key to making sure we can truly take advantage of the amazing opportunity software platforms like AltSchool can provide is to have communities where partners not only have access to the data, but can actually use it.
The bottom line: Access to data isn’t enough, no matter how nicely we package it. We need to focus at least as much time, energy, and resources on building the skill sets required to use data to support the success of each and every child, every step of the way, from cradle to career.
StriveTogether has developed a variety of tools and techniques to support Cradle to Career Network members as they work to change their local education systems and improve results for students. We’ve seen communities achieve results more quickly when they have a chance to work together and learn from each other. Now, based on common challenges shared by our Cradle to Career Network members, lessons learned from last year’s Project FAFSA and the growing adoption of continuous improvement methods, StriveTogether is launching a new method to help communities achieve results together: Impact and Improvement Networks.
With support from the Lumina Foundation, we have kicked off our first Impact and Improvement Network focused on post-secondary enrollment with six Cradle to Career Network members – All Hands Raised (Portland, OR), The Commit! Partnership (Dallas, TX), Impact Tulsa (Tulsa, OK), P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County (San Antonio, TX), The Road Map Project (Seattle, WA), and Seeding Success (Memphis, TN).
These six partnerships will work to improve post-secondary enrollment by focusing on increasing FAFSA completion rates in their communities. Through collaboration and training, these partnerships will develop and test strategies for improving FAFSA completions, track progress regularly and scale successful strategies. As the Post-Secondary Enrollment Impact and Improvement Network digs deeper into their work, we will also share key learnings, successes and challenges to help other partnerships working on post-secondary enrollment.
This is just the first of many Impact and Improvement Networks that will help partnerships accelerate their progress and impact across the cradle to career continuum, improving kindergarten readiness, early grade reading, middle grade math, high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment and post-secondary completion. As part of a StriveTogether Impact and Improvement Network, cradle to career partnerships will get coaching and support in five ways:
- A tested and proven format. Modeled after the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Breakthrough Series model, Impact and Improvement Networks are structured to help partnerships learn from experts and each other about a specific outcome or strategy that they want to improve. Specifically, our Impact and Improvement Networks use pre-work, monthly learning sessions and coaching between sessions to ensure that partnerships are getting the support they need to advance their work.
- Access to nationally-recognized content area experts. With every Impact & Improvement Network, we will partner with content area experts, such as engaging the National College Access Network to improve post-secondary enrollment rates, to ensure that our partnerships get the support they need for their work to be successful.
- Integration of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Results Based Leadership (RBL) approach. RBL tools and techniques help partnerships tackle challenges that can stop the work in its tracks. Specifically, these tools and techniques help to address adaptive challenges (problems with no known solution) such as building trust between organizations or navigating complex adult relationships in order to help every child succeed.
- Training and coaching in rapid cycle continuous improvement. Pulling from several different continuous improvement methods like Model for Improvement and Six Sigma, we have begun to design a process for systems-level, collaborative continuous improvement work that our partnerships can use to better understand and implement the practices and strategies that move outcomes.
- Peer-to-peer learning opportunities. Partnerships often learn best from other communities that are working on the same outcome. Peer-to-peer learning allows partnerships to share their work, share best practices, troubleshoot challenges with other partnerships and get important feedback and coaching from people who have experience in cradle to career collective impact partnerships.
We are excited about the launch of our first Impact and Improvement Network and look forward to launching another in the spring of 2016, focused on attendance and its impact on one of the three core K-12 outcomes – early grade reading, middle grade math and high school graduation. We look forward to taking a deep dive into strategies that improve attendance with the Cradle to Career Network members who participate in this Impact and Improvement Network.
Guest Post by Tia Anzellotti, Director of Partnerships at United Way of San Diego County.
Individuals and organizations work day in and day out to improve education results for kids in San Diego County. The work is hard and complex, and it is critical that we take time to recognize their contributions. Earlier this year, the Partnership for Children held a Celebration of Our Progress event with music, neighborhood food and great fellowship. Kids colored pictures and completed the sentence “When I Grow Up I Want to Be…. The goal of this event was to 1) release a Report Card detailing our successes and kid-level impact over the past year and 2) to help our partners recognize the critical role that they played in every accomplishment.
We had the usual suspects take the stage to talk about the good work that is being done, the outcomes that we achieved, and to offer thanks. But the highlight of the evening came when partners took the stage to share their role in the work and to place their piece on our Path to Success.
And when we say “place their piece on the Path”, we mean that literally. At the conclusion of their comments about the impact of their work on youth in our community, the chairs of each Collaborative Action Network placed a magnet on a life-sized Cradle to Career Roadmap.
The visual was simple and powerful. Each person has a role in paving the path to success. Parents, non-profits, government entities, teachers, law enforcement, school districts – when all of the pieces are in place there are no gaps. If one piece is removed there are cracks and holes for a child to fall into. He would not be able to progress from cradle to career. Her path would be bumpy and broken. The only way we can build a solid path is by working together.
The takeaways and feedback from this activity were tremendous. Some partners appreciated the opportunity to really understand how they fit into the ‘bigger picture’. Others stated that they finally understood the comprehensive vision and how collective impact is going to get us there. Still others simply appreciated the opportunity to stand up and declare their commitment to their piece of the Path to Success.
As the backbone of this effort, it is critical that we create space for partners to be reminded of the larger vision of our work together. That is what will sustain the effort – knowing that they are critical in establishing the path that will enable every child to succeed, from cradle to career.
Tia Anzellotti is the Director of Partnerships at United Way of San Diego County. In this role she leads the backbone efforts for the Partnerships for Children and the San Diego College and Career Readiness Consortium. The Partnership for Children is a Sustaining Member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network.
What? 2015 is over already? In case you missed them, here are some of this year’s hottest posts from StriveTogether’s blog. Most read posts included discussions about education equity, community responsibility, new investments and collective impact results.
1) Unprecedented investment in Minnesota to support cradle to career collective impact by Jeff Edmondson | As part of the new state K-12 education finance package, $5.8 million has been appropriated to support cradle to career partnerships across Minnesota.
— StriveTogether (@StriveTogether) October 2, 2015
2) Collective impact irony by Jeff Edmondson | Achieving collective impact means doing the hard work collectively, but even harder work individually and organizationally.
3) No blame, just responsibility and results by Jeff Edmondson | Communities need to take collective and individual responsibility for ensuring education equity for every child.
4) Report cards unite communities and showcase successes by Emily Smith | Over a dozen StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members have released new community report cards with data from the 2013-2014 school year.
5) Three ways to achieve education equity (Part 1 of 3) by Parvathi “Parv” Santhosh-Kumar | Key strategies to address inequalities in student achievement through cradle to career collective impact work
— The Learning Network (@thelngk) July 26, 2015
6) The capacity for impact by Kaci Roach | Sustainable systemic change requires community-wide support, focused on building the cradle to career partnership’s ability to make that change.
7) Begin with the end in mind | Guest blog post from Ryan Twiss, Director of the Big Goal Collaborative, a Sustaining member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network.
— Derran Wimer (@dwimer1) January 15, 2015
8) Excellence with equity by Carly Rospert | More than 50 Network members and community leaders attended StriveTogether’s “Role of Equity & Community in Systems Change” convening in Atlanta, Georgia.
9) Reflecting on what it takes to move k-12 outcomes by Carly Rospert | Three lessons on ways cradle to career partnerships can work with school districts to improve early grade reading, middle grade math and high school graduation results.
10) Communities release new cradle to career report cards by Bridget Jancarz | New annual reports from across the country communicate action and create accountability for results
Trying to change a system to create a better opportunity for students across the country can be a hard and slow process. Just this last week, the US Department of Education released a report that talked about how US graduation rates are going up but racial disparities persist. Early this year, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis released a study that found that the racial wealth gap is expanding even with degree attainment increasing across the board. As a mother of an almost one-year-old African American boy, this terrifies me. How can we be optimistic for our children’s future when the system is inequitable?
But then I am reminded that there is hope.
Within the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, 65 community partnerships are working to change a system that is inherently not made for kids that look my son and into one that supports the growth and success of all students. They are doing this by leveraging the resources in their communities and using data to identify practices that are working.
For example, in Waterbury, CT, the Bridge to Success Partnership is starting to shift power dynamics to include all voices in the community in identifying problems and solutions. In Adrian, MI, Lenawee Cradle to Career Partnership was successful in bringing alignment across 12 school districts to utilize the same kindergarten assessment tool. And Graduate Tacoma! in Tacoma, WA has increased local high school graduation rates by about 30% since 2010.
These are just a few examples of progress being made toward education systems change across the country. As the Senior Manager of Network Engagement for StriveTogether, I have had the opportunity to interact with each community in our Network throughout the year. Each partnership has had wins, both big and small. From Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, here are our partnerships proudest accomplishments for 2015 and what they’re most excited about for 2016:
California Cradle to Career Sonoma County (Sonoma County, CA)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The formation of the Preschool Facilities Grant Program, the launch of the iREAD campaign and grants program, the expansion of the Kindergarten Student Entrance Profile assessment and the implementation of Quality Counts, Sonoma County’s Quality Improvement Rating System. Through an initial investment of $655,000, our community was able to leverage state and federal contracts totaling $2.9 million to support 264 quality preschool seats. By supporting these efforts, Cradle to Career Sonoma County has promoted and expanded strategies to assure all students enter preschool ready to succeed.
Excitement for 2016: In 2016, we look forward to expanding our efforts beyond goal area one focusing on school readiness to our other two goal areas focusing on academic achievement and college and career success.Fresno Area Strive (Fresno, CA)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The reformation of the partnership and TCM workgroups are now using a rigorous collaborative action/continuous improvement process for their work (using local data to drive decisions, continuous improvement tools/methodology to ensure progress is made, developing plans with continuous improvement embedded, etc.)
Excitement for 2016: Solidifying the infrastructure and building the capacity of the Fresno Cradle to Career Partnership moving solidly into the Sustaining gateway of the StriveTogether Theory of Action.Marin Promise (Marin County, CA)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Marin Promise Partnership Council has made significant progress in understanding and advocating for educational equity in Marin. The Backbone Team’s data analyst (an Education Pioneer) prepared disaggregated data on college readiness that showed continued racial disparities, even among the lowest socio-economic group of students. In addition, in November the Partnership Council dedicated a full day of their time to our “Leading for Equity” retreat, resulting in individual action from these leaders to bring the equity message to their own organizations and networks.
Excitement for 2016: Marin Promise’s Partnership Council has made it a goal to “go public” in 2016. To support this goal, the Backbone Team is developing a communications strategy focused on accountability (report disaggregated data on our progress at each milestone), action (celebrate the progress our Action Teams have made and share lessons learned) and alignment (raise up other community collaborations who are aligned with the cradle to career milestones). Our Partnership Council is coming together as leaders to advocate for educational equity and we are excited to develop the communication tools to support them.Partnerships for Children (San Diego, CA)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We launched a new cradle to career partnership in a new community, and have quickly established co-ownership among partners. We were able to use lessons learned from the work in our first community to be much more clear about roles and responsibilities and this has really allowed us to hit the ground running. Organizationally, we have aligned the role of United Way with collective impact in a much more purposeful way. We have completely shed the “old way of funding” (allocations and individual programs) and adopting a model that allows us to support the growth of the use of collective impact in our region, with United Way staff serving as the coaches and experts in data collection, continuous learning, facilitation and more.
Excitement for 2016: Seeing the fruits of our labor – tangible results that will allow us to identify what we should do more of and what needs a course correction. We will begin to get data and results from our school districts partners that indicate how successful our interventions have been. We are also using data in a much more intentional way when we want to identify new areas of work. The quantitative and qualitative data that we have provides the first set of parameters for the conversation of where and how we should intervene. This immediately sets us on a path for measurement and alignment across all of our work.Colorado Adams County Youth Initiative (Adams County, CO)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Hiring a continuous improvement coach who helped us move from population level data to student level data to set up for true continuous improvement processes and attracting our biggest foundation grant to date who are supporting expanding the backbone support.
Excitement for 2016: Small tests of change with each action team – scaling what works!Connecticut Bridge to Success Community Partnership (Waterbury, CT)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Our partners have undertaken slow and deliberate steps to deepen the feeling of community between parents and caregivers, grassroots organizations, the city, its schools and our more traditional long-term partners. Years of trust development made 2015 the right year to release a Community Report Card with disaggregated data.
Excitement for 2016: We look forward to broadening community conversations around finding shared solutions to eliminate disparities and ensure the success of all our city’s youth.Iowa United Way of the Quad Cities Area Educational Council (Quad Cities, IA & IL)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Twice this year, our partnership decided that a specific aspect of our continuum was not working. Both times, it would have been easiest just to dissolve that portion of our initiative. Instead, both times, the partners unanimously committed to continuing the work, and all chipped in to help design a new, stronger partnership structure.
Excitement for 2016: We will be expanding our data warehouse to include not just public school data, but also data from local non-profit providers and from the National Student Clearinghouse. This will allow us to track both the short- and long-term impacts of the interventions we’ve put into place.Louisiana STEP Forward (Shreveport, LA)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: 1. Increasing literacy volunteers from three schools in year one to 14 schools in year two, with one entire district (of three) having volunteers in every school. 2. Establishing the new network team of Youth Civic Opportunity to address the My Brother’s Keeper goal of reducing youth violence.
Excitement for 2016: Developing a project to address the 30 million word gap for young children ages 0-3 in poverty.Maine Portland ConnectED (Portland, ME)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Our biggest accomplishments for 2015 are (1) maintaining momentum through key partner transitions; (2) doubling down on our successful programs; (3) establishing ten fully updated, disaggregated core indicators across the cradle-to-career spectrum; and (4) moving from ‘acting strategically’ to longer-term, prioritized, durable strategic planning.
Excitement for 2016: We are most looking forward to (1) sharpening our focus, (2) moving to high action and high alignment with more partners, (3) implementing our priority strategies, and (4) watching more indicators of child and family success start to move in the right direction.Maryland Baltimore’s Promise (Baltimore, MD)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: During its first year, Baltimore’s Promise released two major reports – A Best Practices and Financing Review, which detailed public and private investments supporting Baltimore City’s cradle to career continuum, and a Baseline Report to the Community. The data included in those reports were catalysts to launch work groups, with over 200 content experts, whose work will inform decisions and fuel action to improve outcomes for our youth.
Excitement for 2016: Baltimore’s Promise is exploring opportunities to sustain successful strategies that have led to reductions in Baltimore City’s infant mortality rate and improved healthy birth rates. We are mapping Medicaid policy and funding to determine the delta between those strategies and what is actually covered under Medicaid reimbursement. Our goal is for the State of Maryland to modify its Medicaid plan to allow reimbursement for services that are currently unfunded.Michigan Lenawee Cradle to Career (Lenawee County, MI)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Lenawee County schools (11 public and 1 private) began using the Brigance III screener in the Spring 2015 as a shared measurement tool for determining kindergarten readiness. Nearly 900 students participated in this assessment. A standards setting panel met in June 2015 to review the data from this shared measurement of five domains of academic, language, and physical development.
Excitement for 2016: Creating a Trauma informed Community! Much work has begun in 2015 with leadership coming from the Community Mental Health Authority. Several school districts have, or will shortly, be training administrators and teachers in what “trauma informed” looks like.The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo (Kalamazoo, MI)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We received an incredibly generous in-kind gift of continuous improvement training and coaching from Bronson Healthcare Group, a community partner of The Learning Network and a leader in healthcare for our region.
Excitement for 2016: Community partners have gathered around three action networks that are each focused on long-term and shorter goals reflected in a community scorecard. They are looking at local and national data, bringing a local voice to the table, and using continuous improvement processes. The collective impact process is working!Minnesota Northfield Promise (Northfield, MI)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: On a big-picture level, one of our great accomplishments was partnering with other Minnesota communities to secure a state investment in Minnesota’s Strive and Promise Neighborhood efforts; in addition, the network that has formed among these partners is incredibly valuable in improving how our collective impact effort functions on a day-to-day basis.
Excitement for 2016: We are excited about the continued work to share disaggregated data with our action teams, our partners, the schools, and our community to help drive community-level change. In addition, the momentum we are seeing on the two ends of our continuum — the early childhood efforts and those around high school engagement, graduation, and future planning — are exciting and look to grow in the year ahead.New Mexico Mission: Graduate (Albuquerque, NM)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The work we did to engage employers in developing a shared vision and action plan with K-12 educational leaders to better align educational practices with local workforce needs. Through a series of strategic conversations with employers, superintendents, and community leaders, we were able to develop customized workforce alignment projects that are currently being implemented in three school districts. This work is meaningful because of the depth of employer engagement and the potential for impact toward our larger goal of graduating more students from college.
Excitement for 2016: Mission: Graduate is most excited about the work we are getting underway to help get more adults enrolled in postsecondary education. As one of the newest members of the Graduate! Network, we are working to step up our outreach to adults in our community and provide better advising and support services to help break down the barriers to postsecondary enrollment and completion that many of them experience. This work has the potential to have a large impact toward our goal of 60,000 new college graduates by 2020.New York North County Thrive (Clinton County, NY)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Successfully engaging over 60 leaders in our region to support our efforts.
Excitement for 2016: We are excited about launching our kindergarten readiness community action network, along with implementing our overall strategic plan. We are working hard to reach “sustaining” within the Theory of Action!Ohio Learn to Earn Dayton (Dayton, OH)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The articulation of defined strategies for all parts of the cradle-to-career continuum and the buy-in for those strategies by all our key stakeholders. Also partnerships with the regional paper, the Dayton Daily News, now carries a weekly ( Sunday edition ) one page synthesis of the activities that are underway to increase student success and attainment rates…
Excitement for 2016: The most exciting thing is the buy-in that we now have from all the regional stakeholders, including elected and appointed officials. It makes things possible at the policy and practice level that would not otherwise be achievable!StrivePartnership (Cincinnati, OH/Convington & Newport KY)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: This year, we launched “ImpactU”—a program dedicated to building capability in continuous improvement, results-based leadership, and equity among our region’s systems leaders. This is unlike anything we’ve ever done before and is bound to have a lasting impact.
Excitement for 2016: We have a chance to make history by ensuring that every 3 and 4 year old in our city has access to quality preschool. It’s a game changer.Oklahoma ImpactTulsa (Tulsa, OK)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Raised $138,000 in 8 weeks to support K-3 literacy projects in 15 partner districts from over 500 community members.
Excitement for 2016: FAFSA,FAFSA, FAFSA! We are helping increase FAFSA completion so more students can enter and complete post-secondary, as well as take advantage of Tulsa’s tuition free community college and career tech programs—which just require completion of a FAFSA form.Oregon All Hands Raised (Portland, OR)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We spent 2015 providing 1) More direct continuous improvement services to our partners. Instead of scaling up more theories with plans, we went deep with six schools on attendance by using rapid cycle data to identify practices that correlate to improved school attendance. 2) Shifted the work in the Eliminating Disparities Collaborative Action Team from policy to practice, our six partner superintendents and six culturally specific organizations CEO’s are building trust to partner and improve student engagement and success to drive improvements in the rates of suspensions and expulsions of students of color. 3) Launched the transition from high school to college and career, by tightening up the focus of the work to increase access to financial aid and build a seamless pathway to careers in construction and manufacturing.
Excitement for 2016: Taking the findings of the rapid cycle continuous improvement work in attendance and move the progress from six schools to district/community wide scale. How exciting to implement what we have measured and studied in our own market and not wait for the next silver bullet from afar.Better Together (Redmond, OR)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Putting out our baseline report and nearly doubling the number of community stakeholders involved in the partnership.
Excitement for 2016: We are most excited about growing our capacity around data and evaluation, and using our strength in this area to reach out and serve community partner needs around program evaluation as it relates to our shared outcomes.South Carolina Spartanburg Academic Movement (Spartanburg, SC)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We “launched” and “flew” our Kindergarten Success Collaborative Action Network (CAN). Capitalizing on the results of intense student-level data pilot studies, the partnership is at work on county-wide collaborations supporting six contributing indicators identified by the CAN: universal county-wide developmental screenings; a 4K enrollment expansion campaign; common entry assessments and enrollment forms across seven school districts; alignment and communication of summer enrichment programs; and creation of a parent app for birth-to-K resources, and an early childhood educator app for sharing training resources across private and public pre-Ks.
Excitement for 2016: We will ramp up the College/Career-Ready High School Graduation CAN. Its probable centerpiece will be a strategy for tuition free community/technical college with heavy reliance on dual high school/college enrollment; and, given satisfactory associate’s completion, guaranteed admission to upper division enrollment in local baccalaureate institutions.Tri-County Cradle to Career (Charleston, SC)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: The transition from “Conceptual Frameworks” to collaborative action networks and consortia on the ground doing good work…with a first Report and accompanying metrics to guide them.
Excitement for 2016: We are excited at the prospect of deeper and more authentic community engagement in this collaborative work.Texas E3 Alliance (Austin, TX)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Our mission is to improve educational outcomes, but our data told us that far too many students are missing school because of flu –taking us into the healthcare space. Working with a variety of partners, we have just completed providing 19,500 vaccines in 136 schools in 4 weeks, the largest in-school flu immunization campaign in Texas, helping many more students and families stay healthy and in school!
Excitement for 2016: Going into 2016, we are most excited about transforming middle school teaching and learning. Based on evidence from our demonstration project that shows our struggling learners have 10 TIMES as many point gains on nationally-normed assessments as their peers across the country, we are now expanding RAISEup Texas to 28,000 students and 1,100 teachers to create a tipping for educational change in our region.The Commit! Partnership (Dallas, TX)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Building data capacity at multiple levels and seeing partners continue to increase their alignment and ownership of the partnership’s work. The launch of a statewide data dashboard, including unique district-level views for superintendents, coupled with a first-ever data learning cohort with 14 nonprofits helped build access and effective use of data. We also saw 5 partner districts and more than 100 community partners align around a common pre-K registration period (9 districts are already aligned for 2016); increased ownership and internal capacity building around early literacy data usage within our largest district partner; and increased alignment among district and community college leaders to address academic readiness and reduce remediation rates.
Excitement for 2016: We are most excited to see our community continue to mobilize around early childhood education through the formation of Early Matters Dallas, an alliance with Early Matters Houston that represents >1 in 4 Texas kids. Having strengthened data transparency through advocacy at the state level, we look forward to developing proof points around the value of high-quality, full-day pre-K in preparation for the 2017 legislative session. Finally, we look forward to growing a regional Teacher Pipelines strategy focused on increasing access to high-quality teacher prep programs, growing interest in the profession among 16-24 year-olds, sharing timely data for continuous improvement, and driving sustainable programmatic investment.Virginia Bridging Richmond (Richmond, VA)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Clarifying roles and accelerating the pivot to shared action.
Excitement for 2016: Partners being able to clearly articulate the value of their shared work because they are seeing tangible results.Washington Eastside Pathways (Bellevue, WA)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Creating a strong foundation for systemic change with the benchmarks of the Sustaining Gateway in mind. A Partner Leadership Committee (PLC) was established in 2015 to enable Eastside Pathways to have a truly localized and collective decision-making model, thus sharing leadership across the entire Partnership. In an effort to allocate and align resources for improved community outcomes, Eastside Pathways and partners introduced the Community Café model to the community as an effective community engagement model. Lastly, we embarked on adaptive leadership and racial equity trainings to mobilize the way we work within our collaboratives and community.
Excitement for 2016: We are excited to continue on our adaptive leadership and racial equity learning in 2016 as well as identifying new campaigns to focus on.Excelerate Success (Spokane, WA)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: Excelerate Success has been successful at both continuously improving but doing so along with local funders. Working with several local business partners, Excelerate Success has provided over 5,000 new books to children in the Spokane County community. Over the course of several distributions, the Reading at Grade Level Network has both improved the methods of distribution to create the greatest impact as well as leveraging successes to help secure over $60,000 of local funding to support early childhood and reading at grade level efforts.
Excitement for 2016: Excelerate Success has seen incredible increases in community support and engagement. In the upcoming year we are most looking forward to the implementation of one of our largest initiatives yet that will align kindergarten registration across Spokane County. This initiative will allow for a common message from community partners, school districts, childcare providers and others about the importance of being ready for kindergarten as well as opportunities to identify families who would benefit from additional resources.The Road Map Project (Seattle, WA)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: We are very proud of our first-ever Advocacy Day! On Feb. 17, 2015, more than 300 students, parents, community members and advocates rallied in Olympia to demand lawmakers fully fund critical financial supports for low-income students. The day was a success thanks to strong partnership with many schools and community organizations from across the state.
Excitement for 2016: Next year, we are looking forward to our second celebration of success event, where we can put a spotlight on great partnerships, collaborations and innovations in our region.Wisconsin Milwaukee Succeeds (Milwaukee, WI)
Proudest Accomplishment in 2015: (1) becoming fully staffed which enhances our capacity to engage with networks for all goal areas-kindergarten readiness, school readiness and college and career success; while ensuring that the social emotional health of our children and young people is infused in how we achieve our 2020 goals and (2) re-setting our leadership teams to deepen engagement and ownership of the work of Milwaukee Succeeds.
Excitement for 2016: What I am most excited about next year (2016) is the implementation of our comprehensive communications plan! This plan is inclusive of all stakeholders and has been embraced enthusiastically by our communications committee and other thought leaders that we’ve shared the plan with for feedback and improvement.
When people think of public policy, presidential campaigns and House of Cards are often the first things that come to mind. In this politically charged environment, collective impact partnerships are often hesitant to wade into the policy pool. However, public policy presents an opportunity for cradle to career partnerships to have impact for all kids in their geographic scope. What’s more, collective impact partnerships are naturally well suited to engage in policy change efforts given their data fluency and cross-sector nature. Through our work with 65 Cradle to Career Partnerships throughout the nation we have identified four roles that collective impact partnerships often play in policy work:
- Show me the data: Cradle to career partnerships are excellent sources of educational data expertise, and sound data is necessary to policy work. This role makes it possible for a partnership to work behind-the-scenes and remains politically neutral, while providing support to the effort.
P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County has fulfilled this role while working with the City of San Antonio to pass Pre-K 4 San Antonio (an effort focused on increasing the number of children who receive a quality early childhood education). In this role, P16 Plus worked with the city staff to help build their capacity to gather, analyze and interpret data.
- Bring it in: Collective impact partnerships work by convening different sectors of the community to tackle complex systemic issues. The convener role partnerships play every day means they have the skills, infrastructure, contacts, and community credibility to bring people together around advocacy and policy work.
The Road Map Project played this role while working to support the College Bound Scholarship and the State Need Grant. The partnership brought together a group of college access providers and other key stakeholders to plan an advocacy day in the state capital, focused on fully funding the policies.
- Create a movement: Community engagement is critical to the success of collective impact partnerships. Strong connections in the community give partnerships the authenticity and respect needed to help educate and mobilize community members on policy issues. Bringing the community into the policy change effort can help to ensure that the policy change is done with and not to those who the policy will impact.
StrivePartnership is currently working to fulfill this role in support of the Preschool Promise, a ballot initiative that would guarantee access to quality preschool for every 3 and 4 year old in Cincinnati. The partnership trained community members as Pre-School Promise Ambassadors who hold meetings in their homes and in the community to educate the community on the importance of pre-school and to raise awareness of the Preschool Promise program.
- Speak out: Collective impact partnerships are often seen by the community as being politically neutral entities. Partnerships can use this to their advantage and play an advocate role in policy change. In this way, partnerships can change and direct the conversation to be about results rather than politics.
Learn to Earn is advocating to for the Ohio legislature to change the funding formula for quality preschool programs. The partnership holds events where state lawmakers meet with local stakeholders and community members to learn about and discuss policy issues and solutions.
As varied as communities are, so are the opportunities for collective impact partnerships to work to influence policy. A partnership may play one or all of these roles throughout the policy process. To help support partnerships in the Cradle to Career Network, StriveTogether is partnering with Bolder Advocacy to hold a Policy and Advocacy 101 this December in Dallas, TX. The training will encourage partnerships to advocate on behalf of the causes they support and delve into how nonprofits can use advocacy and lobbying to achieve their goals, explore how 501(c)(3) organizations can evaluate their advocacy capacity and discuss the various federal rules that apply to nonprofit advocacy efforts.
Every year, over 80 percent of low-income students in America are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. And studies show that if children are behind by third grade, they generally stay behind throughout school. Students who do not read at grade level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.
By 2020, the Campaign for Grade Level Reading hopes that at least a dozen states will see better results. Their goal is to increase the number of children from low-income families reading proficiently at the end of third grade by at least 100 percent.
With early grade reading as one of the six critical education outcomes StriveTogether helps communities improve, this is a goal we can get behind. And StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members are doing just that.
Earlier this month, the Campaign for Grade Level Reading released an Innovation Brief highlighting how three StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities are working to improve grade level reading through collective impact. These three communities – Portland ConnectED in Portland, Maine, Learn to Earn in Dayton, Ohio, and Graduate! Tacoma in Tacoma, Washington – are just a few of the 26 StriveTogether Network communities who are also part of the Grade-Level Reading Communities Network.
In the report, StriveTogether Sr. Director of Strategy and Operations Jennifer Blatz says: “We encourage our partnerships to connect with the Campaign’s network because it offers some of the most proven and promising solutions to the challenges and barriers to reaching reading proficiency, which is at the front-end of StriveTogether’s cradle to career continuum.”
The report also notes where Campaign for Grade Level Reading sees value in working in communities that are part of the StriveTogether Network.
“We see particular strength in Campaign communities that have blended, linked and braided together a focus on the milestone of reading success by the end of the third grade and StriveTogether’s cradle to career focus, community partnerships and collective impact approach,” says Ron Fairchild, director of the Campaign’s Network Communities Support Center (NCSC).
Read more about early grade reading efforts in Portland, Maine, Dayton, Ohio and Tacoma, Washington: Innovation Brief: Partnering with StriveTogether
Teachers, librarians, principals, parent volunteers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, afterschool program leaders, guidance counselors – the list of individuals whose daily mission is to help our children along their educational path goes on and on. And they’re not alone – community leaders, non-profit organizations, philanthropists and local businesses all have roles to play to ensure every child has what he or she needs to be successful.
This week, we join with public school systems and communities across the country to celebrate American Education Week and honor the individuals who work with our children every day. And we especially want to thank the individuals whose mission is to help bring the community together, illuminate sometimes alarming achievement gap data, and champion education equity day in and day out.
These individuals are people like Dan Ryan, executive director of All Hands Raised in Portland, Oregon and longest serving executive director across our entire Cradle to Career Network. StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson says Dan shows great perseverance. “This work can wear you down and he keeps pushing for the use of data to improve outcomes every day.”
Or Cate Joyce, director of continuous improvement for Seeding Success in Memphis, Tennessee. Cate is leading some amazing work to build out a tool to collect the summer reading program attendance data. This data will be used to measure the impact of student interventions designed to improve reading proficiency scores.
Or Roberto Jara, executive director of Destination Education in Holland, Michigan who is building a new community-wide focus on closing achievement gaps and making education success a reality for all local students.
And Juliette Price, executive director of the Albany Promise, who works with community partners and school district staff to implement real practice and policy change to ensure that every Albany, New York child succeeds. “Her leadership has begun to help close the disparity gaps,” says StriveTogether’s Teri O’Brien. “And through the use of data and continuous improvement, her tenacity is strengthening the collective impact efforts in Albany.”
While these people may not be sitting beside a student every day, they are working beside each adult, program and organization that is. With these individuals and thousands more who work across the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, our education system has even more support outside the school walls working to get better and better at supporting the education success of every child.
An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.” The road we have ahead of us for truly fulfilling our creed of “every child, cradle to career” is a long journey that requires us to work together. Individuals like Roberto Jara across the country show us that it is possible.
At the March 2015 StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening, we chatted with Roberto Jara about how the Holland/Zeeland, Michigan community is coming together to close achievement gaps and improve results for all students. Jara is the Executive Director of Destination Education, a newly formed cradle to career partnership that is leading the charge.
Destination Education, the newest member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, works to make completion of post-secondary education an achievable reality for every student in the greater Holland/Zeeland area. They are particularly focused on low-income students, students of color and students who will be first in their families to attain a degree or credential. To do this, they are bringing together K-12 school districts, higher education partners, non-profit organizations, businesses, philanthropists and local government.
By the time they reach 8th grade, only 36 percent of students in the Holland/Zeeland, Michigan area are proficient in mathematics. The stats are more alarming when you disaggregate them: 46 percent of Caucasian students, 13 percent of Hispanic and only 3 percent of African American students are proficient in math by the time they reach 8th grade.
Like anyone leading a collective impact initiative, Jara knows how important it is to have diverse perspectives at the table and how hard it can be to get people together. But according to Jara, one of the best ways to get people engaged is through data. “Now that we have the data of which students need to reach proficiency,” Jara said, ”we know exactly what they need to do to become proficient.”
Now that Destination Education is part of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, Jara and his team can make connections and share knowledge with communities across the country doing similar work. Moreover, they will have resources and materials to accelerate progress toward their mission.
“Throughout my whole career I have really relied on people who are colleagues and mentors – people who are doing the same work,” said Jara. “I know I need their help to do the work necessary to close the achievement and attainment gaps we are addressing.”
Destination Education is the 65th member of the nationwide StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network. Together, the Network impacts more than 8.2 million students nationwide.
It’s hard to believe the 2015 Cradle to Career Network Convening has already come and gone! It takes close to a year of planning to put on a three-day event for nearly 400 people from more than 60 cradle to career partnerships around the country who are coming together to make the mission of success for every child possible. And then it seems to be over in the blink of an eye.
In my role as Senior Manager, Network Events for StriveTogether I make the mission possible by coordinating events like this that provide Network members the opportunity to share their work, connect with others and build their knowledge.
Our annual Cradle to Career Network Convening is a unique opportunity to bring together the many agents of transformational change working on the ground every day to ensure education success for every child, cradle to career. It’s an intense job and the National Convening provides a space to take a step back and reflect on all that has been accomplished in the last year, to give Network members a chance to connect with their peers, to allow everyone to reenergize and take lessons back to their community.
The heart of the Cradle to Career Network Convening is our members, and my focus is on putting together an event that provides an incredible atmosphere for them. I believe the mission is possible because the Cradle to Career Network is made up of agents of change from across the country who ARE improving educational outcomes for children. Network members are passionate, dedicated, disruptors of the status quo working to create systems change. Through their efforts the system WILL change and every child will have the opportunity to experience success from cradle to career.
In reflecting on the fourth Cradle to Career Network Convening that I have planned, there have been many lessons learned along the journey. Each year builds on the one before. Being an event planner was not the path I envisioned myself taking; I focused my education on and started my career in the communications field. What was missing for me was the feeling of fulfillment at the end of the day, the chance to make a tangible difference in the lives of others. I took a leap of faith in starting on a new a path at StriveTogether, but being in a supportive environment where failing forward is encouraged has provided me with a safe space to grow.
My experience at StriveTogether reminds me of how important it is for children to be supported, encouraged and mentored throughout their educational journey from cradle to career. In times of struggle and self-doubt, having just one person to lift them up can be the difference between falling through the cracks and achieving success. When this work feels overwhelming, members of the Cradle to Career Network are able to lift each other up and remember that the mission is possible.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to simply be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Being in this role helps me to live with purpose, and believing in this mission gives me purpose.
There is power in bringing people together around the common goal of creating systems change in education; there is an indescribable energy that fills the room. I’m looking forward to the 2016 Cradle to Career Network Convening in Memphis!