We’re four weeks out from the Ready by 21 National Meeting and I’m stoked. We couldn’t ask for a better location or better host partners. The plenary and workshop line-up is fantastic, as is the mix of familiar and new names on the registration list.
My excitement, however, also comes from within.
There’s a lot that I want to share with you about me, about the Forum and, most importantly, about our renewed investment in ensuring that young people are really ready for college, work and life. Even though I’ve claimed the opening plenary slot this year, that probably won’t be enough time to cover all I need to tell you. So I’ve decided to start the conversation with you now.
Each week in March, I’ll share a theme – one that you might hear in the plenary, and that will certainly be evident in the threads of the conference fabric we’ve woven together for you.
Theme 1: Let’s stop playing it safe. Readiness is more than a goal; it’s a right. This isn’t just an outward call to action. It’s a personal admission of inaction.
I’ve played it safe.
As an African-American woman and the leader of a well-respected national organization, there is much more that I could have and should have done to make sure all really means all. You know and I know that there are groups of young people, of community leaders, of programs and systems that are consistently overlooked when “readiness” is defined by those who did not have to struggle to achieve it and who have the signing pen of authority.
I’m a research-trained advocate. The Forum is an action tank focused on continuous improvement and leadership alignment. We’re not going to change our stripes overnight.
But excellence is a hollow goal unless it is pursued in the service of equity. I and the entire Forum team can do much, much more to make sure we are bringing an equity lens to the excellence table.
In New Orleans, we’ll dig deeper. Our focus on equity – on readiness as a right – will permeate the messages you hear, the learnings you share and the conversations we hope to inspire. You should feel this from the opening plenary to our closing session featuring Roy Austin Jr. – the deputy assistant to the president for urban affairs, justice and opportunity – who will spotlight critical national efforts like the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
Our site visit will take us to O.C. Haley Boulevard and Café Reconcile in the Central City part of New Orleans, which is being revitalized through the leadership of providers committed to equipping young people with the skills and experiences they need to succeed in whatever comes next for them. We’ll have a track of rich workshop sessions that comprise an “equity institute,” shaped in part with our friends at BCT Partners and their network of Robert Wood Johnson’s Forward Promise grantees, who provide vital energy to promoting opportunities for the health and success of middle school- and high school-aged boys and young men of color.
I’ll send more for you to ponder next week – and I look forward to seeing you at the end of the month.