Packed in a room with 500 “justice fighters” and “champions of children,” I could feel I was part of something big – something unstoppable. StriveTogether CEO and President Jennifer Blatz opened the 10th annual convening in Washington, D.C., with a film that captured social justice movements that “challenge how we think and the status quo.”
And that’s what StriveTogether is all about.
“We refuse to settle for a world where a child’s potential is dictated by the conditions into which he or she is born,” Blatz said. “We are committed to helping every child succeed in school and in life from cradle to career, regardless of race, zip code or circumstance.”
Like-minded local and national partners filled the room with us as the Cradle to Career Network showed up in full force at our nation’s capital where policies and systems are created. Systems, Blatz said, that “perpetuate inequities in the lives of black and brown kids. These are the systems we must transform.”
This is a big ask but essential work. Blatz shared how the Cradle to Career Network was up to the challenge:
- Cradle-to-career outcomes are improving across the Network and for children of color. From Oregon and Illinois to Wisconsin and Texas, she shared examples of how network members are closing disparity gaps in kindergarten readiness, early-grade reading and postsecondary enrollment.
- More and more network members are pushing for public policy that address inequities and increase investment in education. From an $11.6 billion increase in school financing in Texas to the establishment of the Utah Governor’s Early Childhood Commission, Blatz said these policy wins are examples that systems are changing to support better results for kids.
- More network members are following StriveTogether’s validated theory of action, progressing along the framework and moving to systems change. Blatz congratulated Northfield Promise and UP Partnership as the 12th and 13th communities to become Proof Points.
Blatz also talked about the importance of equity in grounding the work. She said, “We focus on race equity because we know that we have to take on systemic racism and oppression to get better results for kids.”
She described work over the years to make race equity more explicit in the StriveTogether Theory of ActionTM to creation of a planning team and their work. She asked network members to provide feedback over the coming days to inform this work.
“This is a journey for us, not a field trip. We are in it for the long haul. I invite you to hold us accountable for being courageous and unstoppable in our efforts to transform inequitable systems,” Blatz said.
Finally, she reminded us not to lose sight of youth that are at the center of the work. Every young person yearns for success and has their own vision for what success looks like. She shared a video that allowed us to listen to young people talk about success:
They have big dreams and goals. Dreams and goals not unlike my twin daughters when I ask them about their future and how they define success. Just like I encourage my daughters to dream big and pursue every opportunity, I want the same thing for every child. This is why I am energized to be part of something big, a movement sweeping across the country and impacting the lives of 13.7 million children and counting.