Aspen symposium looks at ‘moving the needle’ for kids |

Aspen symposium looks at ‘moving the needle’ for kids

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – It might sound like a bunch of jargon – moving the needle, collective impact, evidence-based programs, consistent outcomes – but the bottom line is something everyone can understand: successful kids.

“We need to stop viewing education as the sole responsibility of schools,” said Jeff Edmondson, managing director of Strive Network and a speaker at Friday’s Cradle to Career Symposium at the Aspen Institute. “To raise successful kids, we must realize that the schools, the business community, government, nonprofits – everyone has a role to play.”

This type of collaborative effort is at the heart of Cradle to Career, a national movement for children ages that includes the locally based Aspen Community Foundation among its constituents. Toward Cradle to Career’s mission – and to increase public awareness of the local initiative – the foundation is hosting a daylong symposium featuring guest speakers such as Brenda Dann-Mossier, U.S. assistant secretary of education for vocational and adult education, and talks including “From Community Challenge to Community Change: The Power of Collective Impact” and “Community-Wide Youth Success: Case Studies in Moving the Needle.”

Edmondson is part of the latter conversation. He believes that Cradle to Career is a concept that the Roaring Fork Valley community is ready to embrace.

“What you need in a community is a cross-sector group of leaders who are willing to say they are not going to spray and pray,” he said, referring to the method of “spraying” resources all over and “praying” that good things are going to happen. “And my understanding is that there is already movement in this direction in your community.”

Indeed, the Aspen Community Foundation has been meeting with key players from Aspen to Parachute to determine the needs locally and the resources available to meet those needs. The end goal, according to Aspen Community Foundation officials, is to “spur regional collaborative action that will ensure that children are ready for kindergarten and graduate from high school ready for college or career.”

But as Edmondson points out, Cradle to Career is not about creating new programs. Rather, it’s about using existing resources for maximum effect.

“This is about a new way of doing business,” he said. “This is about community partners coming together to create positive outcomes.”

And he believes symposiums like the one Friday at the Aspen Institute are an ideal first step in the process.

“These types of forums build commitment, which is what you need to bring about real change,” he said. “We are living in the new normal, and we need to find ways to raise successful children in this environment.”

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