Game Changer's Luncheon 2019


As I begin my new role as interim executive director for the next year, I'd like to share the ambitious plans we have to match your generous investments.


First, we want to equip parents in our footprint to be the strongest possible advocates for themselves and their children. Every parent in this room knows how complicated it can be to wade through school deadlines, paperwork, electronic platforms, and text message alerts. It's so overwhelming it can make us feel like we are NOT smarter than a 5th grader! All of us have needed to have a conversation with school personnel about the well-being of our child, and that can also be intimidating. We don't want our neighbors to feel shut out or inadequate because they don't have WIFI, a computer, or basic computer skills. We want to reassure parents they deserve a seat at the table as city schools deepen their commitment to closing the achievement gap. And we want to support parents in reaching their own educational and employment goals. With the help of Leadership Charlottesville, we have a more viable framework for adult empowerment to implement this program in the coming year.


Secondly, we will take what we have learned about neighborhood-based data collection, and more clearly track and measure our success. The school system, United Way, the Youth Opportunity Network and others are beginning to join forces to more effectively use data to drive decisions and measure impact. Dr. Maryfrances Porter, president of Partnerships for Strategic Impact will lead that effort for us.


Third, we begin recruiting more volunteers to serve as tutors and mentors, especially African American men and women. While we certainly need people willing to give money, we also need people willing to give time.  About 64% of middle class and affluent children nationwide have mentoring beyond their extended family, but nearly 62% of poor children do not have that mentoring. City of Promise is in a position to change that with your help.


Fourthly, I want to position City of Promise to provide suitable compensation for our staff. You have heard today just how our programs enrich our youth, empower adults, and build academic and life skills. What you may not know is the expertise Ashley Howard, Latara Ragland, Melissa Steppe, and Rob Gray bring to their work every day. Not every human service provider can comfortably walk the neighborhood where we work, but our team navigates with confidence. Because of the trust they have built, other agencies in town rely on OUR team for neighborhood access. Whether supporting a family facing eviction or patiently talking through complicated paperwork with a refugee who barely speaks English, our success depends heavily on these highly-skilled practitioners, and they are hard to find.  I want to be sure City of Promise has a sustainable plan of appropriate compensation and professional development for our staff.


Finally, we want to formulate a plan to leverage our beautiful garden as an educational tool to send stronger messages about healthy living. The garden is such an incredible community asset, thanks to Barbara Yager's ambitious and visionary efforts. While City Schoolyard Garden will take on the primary care for our garden going forward, we will not abandon our commitment to health and wellness.


According to the experts at Harlem Children's Zone it can take ten years for a promise neighborhood to operate on all cylinders and see major outcomes. City of Promise is headed into year eight, and we are well on our way to fulfilling the promise our founder's envisioned.


I believe Charlottesville is a city of promise. I believe the work we do at City of Promise is just as important as the work happening over at the cancer center. The difference is that everybody knows somebody who has battled cancer. Not everybody knows somebody who has battled poverty. City of Promise provides an opportunity for you to know your neighbors and to contribute to their thriving. We are counting on you, and we appreciate your affirmation and support.


Thank you.