In July, Hobart and William Smith Colleges hosted the 18th annual Leadership Breakfast for Success for Geneva’s Children, a local organization dedicated to mobilizing the Geneva community to improve the health and wellbeing of children and their families.
From educational institutions, non-profits, local government and service organizations, Geneva community members convened in the Common Room of the Scandling Campus Center to discuss findings and recommendations on local issues of child poverty and education.
“We here speak of our children as the hope for our future,” said Jim Gerling L.H.D. ’09, president of Success for Geneva’s Children and retired Geneva Presbyterian minister, in his opening address. “However, this is only true in direct proportion to the care and resources we are willing to invest in them.”
Established in 1997, Success for Geneva’s Children has served as a catalyst for improving the quality of life for children in Geneva by providing several unique services to the community:
1) the production of a biennial Data Report to assess and track the well-being of children and their families;
2) periodic in-depth Reports examining key findings identified by the Data Report, with recommendations to address the need; and
3) annual leadership Breakfasts to highlight the reports and successes of each previous year and raise awareness among elected officials and community leaders on the needs of children and families.
“Success for Geneva’s Children has helped identify needs in the community, and now these recommendations need the support of everyone who cares about children in our district,” said Amy Jackson-Sellers, the recently-named program coordinator for Geneva 2020, the HWS-based community-wide coalition in which individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations collaboratively support Geneva student achievement.
“Success for Geneva’s Children’s commitment to the youth of our community and Success’ ambitious and thoughtful approach to data collection naturally aligns with Geneva 2020’s Collective Impact model, where the community comes together to support the needs of Geneva’s children from cradle to career,” Jackson-Sellers said.
“It is in everyone’s best interests to make sure that when children start kindergarten, they already have the skills they need,” said Jennifer Morris, facilitator for the Task Force on School Readiness, which detailed its progress and research findings on early childhood education during the breakfast.
With the objective of ensuring that “children are ready for school, families are ready to support their children’s learning, and schools are ready for children,” the school readiness task force has outlined and enacted several steps to increasing services for Geneva’s children. It has implemented the Parent Appraisal of Children’s Experiences 2.1, which allows for efficient and holistic data to be gathered on children entering the Geneva School District for the first time. As part of the kindergarten screening process, this assessment tool better allows the district, and concerned organizations like Success, to determine what local needs are and how to support them.
Kim Reisch, a Geneva-based lawyer, and Geneva Police Detective Patrick Nolin delivered the report from the Task Force on Domestic Violence, which focuses on prevention, as well as improvement of social relations to improve domestic health and safety, an important indicator of community well-being. The task force was spurred to action when data affirmed that domestic incidents had increased from 5% in 2008 to 36% in 2014.
“We have thought broadly about expanding this task force and honing in on working within a public health and prevention model, as opposed to a law enforcement one,” says Reisch. “For instance, this allows us to include the survivors’ voices, which had been missing from the other approach. This is a human problem.”
By virtue of the collective-impact model of which Success for Geneva’s Children is a part, the research and recommendations from each task force will be incorporated in a variety of applications, servicing the needs determined by Geneva’s own citizens.
“Going forward, Success for Geneva’s Children will be collecting data on kindergarten readiness,” said Jackson-Sellers, “and Geneva 2020 will be able to use that data to create clear goals to ensure that Geneva’s children arrive to their first day of kindergarten ready to learn and thrive.”