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On Tuesday, February 14, 140 members from United Way of Larimer County’s partnering organizations came together to speak on the positive movement in Larimer County at the Collective Impact Partner Summit Event at the Drake Center. As the beginning of the event quickly approached, coffee and donuts became scarce and seats began to fill by the multiple partners from differing organizations.
Representatives from each of United Way of Larimer County’s Collective Impact collaborative groups, Be Ready, Kids on Track, Graduation and Post-Secondary Success, and Working Families Thrive spoke on the key initiatives each program has implemented over the last three years. This event recognized the success and positive change each of these collaboratives has brought to Larimer County, and the goals they each hope to pursue in the coming years.
Lise Youngblade, Professor and Department Head of Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University, and Community Impact Chair of United Way of Larimer County’s Board of Directors, put into perspective just how much work these organizations have worked to achieve the goals of this collective impact movement. “The work this group has done with their partners has been a large contribution to the success of this impact model,” says Youngblade. 22 organizations in Larimer County have served 79,494 clients who adhere to the basic needs model. Her hope is that we continue to bring partners together who can help those struggling with basic needs.
The first presentation from the Be Ready collaborative had representatives that came and spoke on the goals they hope to achieve in Larimer County. Mims Harris, community volunteer for Be Ready, shared that their goal is for all children in Larimer County enter school ready to learn. In the first five years of a child’s life, the brain experiences 90% growth, and infants’ brains grow at a rate of 700 neurons per second. This puts into perspective how important it is for a child to learn the tools they need when they are younger to help them get a head start and be ready for school.
Karen Rattenborg, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, and Executive Director of the Early Childhood Center at Colorado State University, spoke on the importance of getting a child ready for Kindergarten and how to ease the stress of parents. “Resources like our Be Ready Navigator are so beneficial to help parents with those simple questions,” says Rattenborg. Since there are three school districts in Larimer County, there are different expectations for ages that a child can start school, different registration dates, and “conflicting messages on what it means to `Be Ready’,” she says.
Statistics showed that pre-kindergarten teachers, kindergarten teachers, and parents all had higher expectations than the state standards of letter recognition, how many words a child can speak, and how high they should be able to count. “They need to know the letters in their name. That’s really important,” says Rattenborg.
The Kids on Track collaborative was represented by Helen Yousef, a sophomore at Fort Collins High School who is a part of Boys and Girls Clubs. She announced the Kids on Track group has made exciting progress the past few years, and presented it in the form of a quiz game, asking representatives from Partners Mentoring Youth, Campus Connections at Colorado State University, B.A.S.E. Camp, and Boys and Girls Clubs. Yousef’s presence to the audience made the speech more alive and allowed the partners to see how Kids on Track has helped her in her youth.
Heather Vesgaard, Executive Director of Partners Mentoring Youth, spoke on the importance of Kids on Track. “Kids on Track is focused on helping school-aged youth be successful as they grown into adulthood. We do things like help youth get mentors and help improve their literacy,” says Vesgaard.
Members of the Kids on Track collaborative who spoke at the Collective Impact Summit event included Partners Mentoring Youth, Boys and Girls Clubs, Campus Connections at Colorado State University, the Library District, and B.A.S.E Camp. These groups meet monthly to discuss the impact their organizations are making on school-aged children, and the close-knit bond between each organization is shown through their speeches and their shared passion for making a difference.
The Graduation and Post-Secondary Success collaborative had representatives from the Matthews House, Poudre School District, and Estes Park Learning Place. speak on their four strategies for working with children in high school. They emphasize parent and youth engagement programs, academic support programs, support groups for children with at-risk behavior, and career exploration and internship opportunities.
One of the representatives from the Graduation and Post-Secondary Success collaborative, Melanie Voegeli-Morris who works with Student Assistance Services in the Poudre School District, spoke about her trauma informed trainings for school administrators, deans, and educators for children who have experienced trauma. “A kid needs to feel safe to learn,” says Voegeli-Morris. 550 faculty, deans, administration, and mental health team members have been trained through her program. “My focus is to make sure at-risk students have accessibility,” she says.
This collaborative took great pride in knowing their support groups and programs have a large effect on students who struggle with substance abuse in Larimer County. Using a quantitative measurement to assess their success, 70% of the students who came into the Graduation and Post-Secondary Success Collaborative leave substance free.
The last collaborative, Working Families Thrive, had three representatives who have been working together since October 2015. They started out as two groups: one focused on employment and jobs, and the other focused on financial literacy and asset building. They realized they could make more of a difference if they combined, so they joined forces and are better addressing self-sufficiency in the work they are doing in the community.
“Lots of these families are working really hard to make it and to live in Larimer County. A lot of the families make just a little too much to get the support they need, and too little to thrive and be successful,” says Liddy Romero, Founder and Executive Director at WorkLife Partnership.
Two real-life stories from WorkLife Partnership were shared with the audience about how partners in the collaborative came together to help people who struggle balancing work, their family, and many other aspects of their lives while making little money. The stories showed how organizations in Larimer County came together to make a positive impact on people’s lives, helping them find a path to self-sufficiency.
Upon completion of each of the collaboratives’ work shown through their speeches and presentations, there was time for group discussions among each of the tables. Conversations addressed what stood out about each of the teams’ presentations, and what ideas it sparked for individuals in the audience. Attendees loved the group discussions, and realized there is a lot of potential for Larimer County as a growing community.
At the end the event, Carrie Bennett, part of the Collective Impact Team at United Way of Larimer County, addressed a future grant application process. This grant would address how partners want to work together, the work each collaborative wants to do, and allow them to continue to do the great work they area already doing in the community. United Way of Larimer County looks forward to the next few years to come as we are excited to see the hard work and need for change our partners implement into multiple individuals’ lives in Larimer County.
Thank you to all who attended the Collective Impact Partner Summit earlier this week. Your contribution and drive to increase positive change in Larimer County is evident in all the hard work put forth these past few years, and will continue for years to come.
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County