How do you get schools and out-of-school providers working in concert toward the same goals for young people? Leaders in Richmond, Va., are starting to answer that question with a series of summits designed to build a shared agenda for youth development.
The summits bring together schools, community-based providers and other stakeholders from more than eight school districts across the region. The aim is “to have open and candid discussions about how to strengthen relationships between adults and youth, and between the school and community, to support positive youth development,” said Kelli Parmley, executive director of Bridging Richmond, which co-sponsors the summits and is a partner in the Forum for Youth Investment’s Ready by 21 initiative.
The summit speakers and workshops reflect the roles of all participants. For example, the most recent summit (in October) included speakers from the K-12 system, community service providers and higher education.
The workshops for K-12 administrators covered the relationship between schools and community partners, “true teaming,” professional development, research and other evidence needs. The workshops for front-line leaders and community partners (including teachers, counselors and service providers) focused on school/community relationships, adult/youth relationships, professional development, research and the supports needed to help students succeed.
More than 175 people attended the October summit. The first summit, in July, brought together middle school administrators. Another summit and a wrap-up event are planned for next year.
Tim Joyce, CEO of the Greater Richmond YMCA, summed up the need for this collaborative effort when he addressed the October gathering: “Frederick Douglas, a great author, abolitionist and statesman said, ‘It’s easier to build children than to fix men.’ That’s what you do every day. It involves all of us pulling together.”
The summits are part of a larger initiative by regional leaders to align resources and efforts to improve education and workforce preparation. To help facilitate that work, Richmond joined the Ready by 21 Southeast Cities Challenge, which helps communities develop the leadership capacities necessary to improve outcomes for all children and youth, from birth to career.