Children First, Collaboration Always

Before coming to America's Promise I spent two years working for City Year Washington, DC as a tutor and mentor in DC Public Schools.  City Year is an organization with a strong culture and set of values aimed at helping corps members to provide the best possible care to the students they serve.

One such value in the City Year canon reads, “Children first, collaboration always.” Clearly, this value has meaning in City Year’s team work style school support model, but the notion of child-focused collaboration has gained so much more significance for me during my time here at America's Promise.

At City Year, the focus is on using schools and education as a lever for social change.  The frustration for me during my service was that my influence and that of my peers only reached as far as the doors of the school.  Once the day ended, we had to hand our students back to their families, their friends, and their neighborhood.  For every single person I worked with, there were moments that we wished we could follow our students home to protect them, nurture them, and ensure their chance to grow and achieve whatever they put their minds to.

What children like the ones I spent my time with need is a comprehensive net of support services that come from within the neighborhoods where they live, go to school, and, ultimately, grow up.  America’s Promise recognizes this conundrum, and with the Five Promises in mind, endeavors to increase high school graduation rates and close the opportunity gap by touching all aspects of children’s lives.

This commitment to collaboration is evident throughout the programming here at America’s Promise.  The 100 Best Communities for Young People awards highlight communities that do, in fact, collaborate to support their youth.  America’s Promise is also heavily involved in the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative—a child-centered collaborative effort aimed at revitalizing the Kenilworth neighborhood based loosely on the efforts of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone.  And, finally, the organization has strong ties to the Boys and Girls Club of Alexandria, Virginia where, this summer, we interns volunteered on Wednesday afternoons.

This on the ground commitment to collaboration and community building echoes the overall goals of America’s Promise.  As an alliance of diverse partners, all of whom have the best interest of America’s children at their heart, the organization is uniquely positioned to create collaboration across sectors and communities.  For me, this is the most important aspect of America’s Promise, as it adds another important dimension to the conversation about how to best support students who lag behind in our education system. 

I have been heartened and inspired by my time with America's Promise.  I hope to take my experience here and apply it to whatever may be next in my own career.  Additionally, I look forward to seeing this organization’s hand in the construction of innovative youth support systems in the future.