In case you missed it, something truly special happened this last week in two vulnerable neighborhoods in Tulsa, the likes of which I have not been witness to. In our work of Collective Impact there are a lot of good ideas and good intentions, but those ideas and intentions rarely get us over the finish line. However, this one was different.
A year ago, a group of professionals throughout the Early Education space joined together and asked the question: “Could we create the first vulnerable neighborhood in Tulsa where the majority of kids were on track when they reached kindergarten?” That was where it all started. Educare, CAP Tulsa, Crosstown Learning Center, Tulsa Public Schools and the Tulsa Health Department, joining forces around an ambitious dream of a goal.
Following that key question, the group went to work. They examined the process of admission and policies that created barriers for enrollment. Further, they looked at best practices that had already occurred at our schools to learn from the successes that had already been experienced. They looked at everyone’s efforts and identified gaps in opportunities. They brought their communications experts and, collectively, they created a concise and cohesive marketing and recruitment campaign for the neighborhoods. It was pretty impressive. But everyone knew that as impressive as the work was, it was not going to move the community rapidly toward the even more impressive goal that had been set.
That’s where the champions come in.
A call out was made to everyone in the community that had access to information or relationships that connected with families with children under the age of five. Housing organizations like the Tulsa Housing Authority and Seldin Management; Commercial Development organizations like Kendall-Whittier and Route 66 Main Street; Health organizations like Community Health Connection; Businesses like Pancho Anaya bakery; Civic Organizations like the Tulsa Library; Education organizations such as the University of Tulsa, City Year, Communities in Schools and the YMCA; and even secondary education leaders from our Middle and High Schools – it was “all hands on deck”. Everyone asking “How can we help?” Then the magic began.
The housing organizations identified where children under 5 were living in their communities and went out to make personal contact with them to encourage them to consider Early Education enrollment. The Tulsa Library and the commercial development organizations got the word out to their businesses and one of them, Pancho Anaya Bakery, invited the group to have a table to be set up with a recruiter during peak business times to solicit to families with young one in tow. Community Health Connection identified their patients who were under the age of 5 that lived in our community and made contact with them and also put the enrollment event on their brightly lit marquee for all to see. The University of Tulsa and the YMCA reached out to their families in their after-school programs. City Year, Communities in Schools, and our very own Community Mobilization team provided much needed logistical support, as well as contacted those families in their service network that had young children. Clinton Middle School and Webster High School went above and beyond by polling their student body as to who had young children in their household, and targeted those kids with a personal encouragement to consider enrollment. Amazing stuff. Beautiful teamwork.
It is unbelievable to consider what could happen if a neighborhood drove a set of collective outcomes. These organizations and the people that work for them coalesced in a way I have never seen. I have been inspired. I have been moved. I have been humbled.
Thank you. A different reality for our kids may just be a little closer to reach as a result of your dedication and efforts.
Executive Director – Growing Together
Connect with Kirk on Twitter @kirkwester