More than 100 participants gathered at the Clarkston First Baptist Church Family Resource Center the evening of August 7 to take part in the second Early Learning Community Trust meeting. The mainly Clarkston residents were asked to prioritize the issues or themes that are important to ensure that Clarkston’s babies, infants, and toddlers are healthy, nurtured, prepared for, and successful in school — and reading on grade level by third grade.
The evening began with participants greeting one another in seven languages: Burmese, Nepali, Somali, Amharic, Dinka, Arabic, and English. Following introductions, participants worked in small groups and engaged in facilitated conversations about early learning issues, assisted by interpreters.
Language and culture, as well as family engagement, were consistent themes expressed during the evening. Participants in all of the groups spoke of their desire to ensure that children learn both English and their home language, and that families as well as other caregivers and staff understood that learning the home language provides a foundation for learning English.
Five priority issues identified at the July Trust meeting were discussed and reviewed by the small groups. Then, participants ranked the five issues, from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most important. The numbers were counted, and the top priority was announced that evening. The issue selected is:
“Early care and education centers. There are quality early care and education centers serving Clarkston families, where home language and respect for culture are an integral part of the curriculum and where families are trained and employed as aides and teachers.”
The next Early Learning Community Trust meeting is scheduled for September 6 at 10:30 a.m. at the Clarkston First Baptist Church Family Resource Center. At this meeting, participants will brainstorm a list of projects to help ensure quality early care and education centers – projects that could be funded with the $50,000 in the Community Trust fund.
At the September 6 meeting, Community Trustees (50% families) will be selected. They will meet following the September 6 meeting to review the list of projects and will prioritize the top five or six projects based on need, feasibility, impact, and sustainability. These prioritized projects will be shared with residents at the next Trust meeting, scheduled for September 18, 6 p.m. at the Clarkston First Baptist Church Family Resource Center. At this meeting, residents will be invited to further review the projects and will use a forced ranking process to select one project to implement.
Following the September 18 meeting, the Early Learning Community Trustees will develop a project implementation plan, including a budget and time table, with project activities beginning in January 2015.
The CDF Community Trust is a participatory, direct democracy model that provides local residents the opportunity to determine for themselves the allocation of funds and resources to address local community priorities. The CDF model borrows from various participatory, direct democracy processes, utilized around the world, such as participatory budgeting. The CDF Community Trust, however, is distinct in its application of community development and consensus building principles, as well as its use of unique approaches to funding and local trust sustainability. The CDF Early Learning Community Trust is funded in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation through the Foundation’s early learning and family engagement initiative.