Coalition Attracts Unusual Suspects; Ketchikan’s Community Café

Ketchikan's Community CaféWhat do an Alaska State Trooper, the police chief, a U.S. forester, and a smattering of parents with young children have in common? For starters, they are part of a movement in Ketchikan — fostered by Best Beginnings — to make their community better for young children.

They were among 32 people from a range of backgrounds and interests who came together Nov. 13, for a discussion and brainstorming forum on early childhood needs and resources in Ketchikan.

The event, called a Community Café, was organized by Ketchikan’s Early Childhood Leadership Coalition, funded in part by a grant from Best Beginnings.

“This was a first for Ketchikan. I’ve been here almost 15 years and we’ve never had a forum like this that focused on early childhood,” observed coalition member Laurie Thomas, director of the Early Learning Program at Community Connections.

“People are used to focusing on teenagers, but more and more, they are realizing that to be proactive you have to start much earlier. People are starting to recognize the importance of the early years,” Thomas said.

Participants at the Community Café addressed the following:

  1. How is our community doing in terms of caring for its young children? What are the strengths, resources, and gaps?
  2. What does my ideal community look like for young children and their families?
  3. From my perspective, what are the main sources of stress for families of young children in Ketchikan? What should I be doing to help or respond?
  4. If I could change one thing for the better in Ketchikan for young children and their families, what would it be?

The diversity of the participants was the most remarkable aspect of the event, Thomas said.

“It’s been really incredible. It’s so promising that people you wouldn’t normally expect or think of – the unusual suspects – were willing to be part of it,” she said. “The insights they had were fabulous. Some were hesitant at first, but later they commented on how valuable the experience was. We were all able to make connections that couldn’t have happened before, even in a small town like this.”

Along with other data, information from the Community Café is being used by the Early Childhood Leadership Coalition to build a sustainable plan to ensure all children in Ketchikan begin school ready to succeed.

This article appeared in the January 2010 issue the Best Beginnings E-newsletter. Please refer to our Content Reproduction Policy if you are interested in reproducing content provided on this website.