|The Big Thing: A Summit to Change Young Lives
Imagine being a kid today. They’re facing challenges that even some grown-ups can’t handle: violence, addiction, cyber bullying, school closures, fall-out from the pandemic, college debt, political division, racial reckoning, and a pervasive sense that things are not getting better.
Wow…it’s a lot.
What we need today is seismic change for children.
Over the last two days, we convened more than 200 advocates to start to find the “big thing” that will change young lives, and it was transformational. Because every child goes to school, that’s where the discussion started but it quickly went far beyond what local districts are doing for kids.
We learned that our kids know their schools are letting them down. National experts were very clear that Pennsylvania is a laggard in doing what our kids tell us they need most – welcoming schools that honor diversity, nurturing mental wellness and academic learning, or preparing students to take control of their future.
State, national, and international “doers and thinkers” weighed in with new information and practices that sparked many an “a-ha” moment for participants. “Wow!” and “That would work in my community,” were common reactions.
It’s a chain reaction we’re going for – a reaction so big that children’s lives are fundamentally better, a reaction so big that it becomes the new social and political norm.
Quickly, children’s mental health, schools that really prepare students for the jobs of the future, and teachers as diverse as our students emerged as critical issues. Our children and teens are experiencing racism in school, trauma, and disappointment that their schools are disconnected from real world jobs.
The Big Thing: A Summit to Change Young Lives is the first step in building a diverse coalition (government, nonprofit, education, philanthropy, community) to significantly improve children’s lives by identifying and advocating for state policies that reimagine schools to be places that enrich the academic and emotional development of every student. The relationships formed and commitments made at the Summit are the foundation of a movement that we are determined to build to enact historic and transformative change for children.
As Geneva Williams, a child advocate in Philadelphia remarked, “This summit is about the possibility of what could be instead of what has been.” Together, we will make those possibilities real.
Children First build this Summit with the sage guidance of an amazing Steering Committee of students, parents, and child-serving leaders. The next steps will be led by the more than 60 Summit participants who said “count me in” to reach our goal of a “big thing” that will forever change young lives.