A Promise of Things to Come

What a thrill we had at Best Beginnings recently. Representatives from 22 Alaska communities connected in Anchorage around the shared goal of making their communities better for young children and their families. This is a harbinger of what we hope to build long term: a connected, coordinated, statewide network of engaged early childhood advocates.

What a thrill we had at Best Beginnings recently. We invited representatives of the nine early childhood partnerships and 16 Imagination Libraries to a day and a half meeting in Anchorage. The purpose was two-fold: to train community representatives in the disciplines essential to success and to promote networking and connections among the participants.

Forty-seven people from 22 Alaska communities came to the Feb. 17-18 session.

A tenet of Best Beginnings is that attaining our mission – ensuring that every child is prepared to succeed in school and in life – will take a big leap forward if we can corral the interest and passion that already exists around early childhood into a connected, aligned network.

These two days of training were tangible evidence of people coming together with common cause, people from very different communities connecting around the shared goals of making their communities better for young children and their families. This is a harbinger of what we hope to build long term: a connected, coordinated, statewide network of engaged advocates for early childhood.

Convening like-minded advocates is only part of what it takes to succeed. Our session included training in some of the arenas essential to successful change-making: effective advocacy, achieving public visibility, fund raising, and sustaining momentum. Still other presentations covered topics no less important to success in this field, such as cultural sensitivity and parent engagement.

Imagination Libraries shared ideas on how to enroll the children who might otherwise fall between the cracks, on how to manage the Dollywood database, on family programs that extend reading activities beyond the book. Partnerships built upon the training they had in August 2009 and focused on how to do strategic planning for their identified early childhood priorities.

By all accounts, it was a valuable meeting. In their comments afterward, participants overwhelmingly wanted more of the same and more opportunities to share ideas and experiences with each other.

In closing, I want to thank the trainers and presenters for the great job they did: Leslie Anderson, Smart Start’s National Technical Assistance Center; Panu Lucier, Alaska Children’s Trust; Hilary Seitz and Robert Capuozzo, University of Alaska Anchorage; Terrie Chang, Ready to Read Resource Center; and Melinda Myers and Barbara Brown of Best Beginnings.

Thanks, also, to those who provided funding for the session: the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development and the Rasmuson Foundation. And to Best Beginnings’ Kaerin Stephens for invaluable logistical support.

Most of all, a huge thank you goes to the participants for their commitment, energy, and unflagging enthusiasm.

Best,

Abbe