TED Talk :: Every Kid Needs a Champion

I love a good TED Talk™. The beauty of having a spare 10 minutes, combined with mobile technology, is that I can learn something new while waiting for who-knows-what, during some evening downtime, or when anticipating a mix and mingle event where it’s helpful to have a discussion topic up my sleeve.

The Achievement Gap is a hot topic. When we talk, we can all agree that there is not one formula for success, but there are two constants: kids and teachers.

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, delivered a dynamic TED Talk™ that was a rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

Pierson addresses the impact that teachers can have on kids who have a champion and the impact of academic success, retention rates, self-image and self-confidence. The earlier that kids have a champion accelerates the educational achievement of all children, from early childhood through early career.

TED Talk: Every Kid Needs a Champion

In the words of Rita Pierson:

“Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”

Championing kids goes far beyond teachers in the classroom. Aren’t we all teachers? Could we all be that adult who should never give up on a child? Whether our interaction with kids is daily (as a parent or classroom teacher), weekly (as a mentor or volunteer) or ad-hoc (Helping Hands, anyone?), we can positively impact kids through encouragement and support.

Perhaps having just one Champion, one bit of encouragement, can make the difference in a child’s life to help them become the best that they can be.   That is an idea worth spreading.

Post contributed by Merris Greiber.

Advocacy and Action Nationally – Early Counts in St. Petersburg, Florida

This Christmas I was telling my dad about the work we’re doing through the Junior League of Minneapolis and specifically in Advocacy.  (Not really) to my surprise, he was very well educated on the achievement gap and had a ton to share with me.

His closest peer at work is Chair/Chief Volunteer Office for their local YMCA in Florida.  In the past 2-3 years, their organization has kickstarted a campaign, Early Counts, geared toward early-childhood development and kindergarten readiness.  The goals of this program are to improve academic success, increase post-secondary attendance, lower crime rates, etc.  Sound familiar?

Earlier today, I had a great conversation with my dad’s peer to learn more about Early Counts and the work they are doing.  Many of their insights mirror those we have seen in Minnesota –

• By age 5, 90% of a child’s brain structure is developed – meaning family and community environment play a critical role in that development.

• Voluntary Prekindergarten Education programs aren’t always accessible or financially viable for families, making them unattractive.

Since the implementation of Early Counts, they have opened two early-childhood schools in the community for children aged 2-5.  One of their schools was donated to them and results so far have been outstanding.  At the start of the year, 38% of students were considered kindergarten ready and now that number is up to 83% after just one year.  In addition, 81% of students enrolled receive scholarship money through the YMCA or government ELC programs, making education affordable.

Since joining the JLM, I’ve learned a lot about the Achievement Gap, specifically in Minnesota and the Twin Cities.  But it’s important to remind ourselves this is a national issue as well, and there are some great things being done nationally to close it.  It’s this kind of work that keeps me continuously engaged and excited about advocacy and demonstrates that every action counts.

If you’re interested, below are some additional resources on Early Counts.

Early Counts Official Website – http://www.stpeteymca.org/blank/early-counts/

Early Counts Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36dHSmGs05c&feature=youtu.be

Post contributed by Carrie Curtis.

Good and Bad News for Minnesota Kids

Minnesota continues to be one of the best states in the nation for children, but the latest snapshot on their well-being shows some areas of concern. The state is ranked fourth overall in the latest KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, but several areas worsened over the past year:

  • The number of children in poverty grew to 15 percent.
  • Minnesota’s child health ranking went from 7th last year to 15th this year.
  • The percentage of fourth graders not proficient in reading increased from 62 percent to 65 percent.

Read more about the Kids Count report at the following links: