Berea College Joins National Partnership to Address Racial Disparities in Rural America

Partners for Education at Sullivan Foundation partner school Berea College has joined a partnership with Save the Children, StriveTogether and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to develop and launch a first-of-its-kind collective impact effort for rural America.

Designed to address complex social issues through a collaborative approach adapted to the unique needs and interests of rural communities, the effort has kicked off in three pilot communities—Perry County, Ky., Whitley County, Ky. and Cocke County, Tenn.—with the goal of improving children’s lives from cradle to career.

As part of the collaboration, the Rural Accelerator Initiative will provide $400,000 over three years to the three pilot communities—an unprecedented $1.2 million investment of funds to rural communities to align action plans developed in each community to prioritize kids and families.

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“At StriveTogether, our mission is to help communities transform how they serve children and families,” said Jennifer Blatz, StriveTogether’s president and CEO. “We know we can achieve more by working together than apart and have proof from nearly 70 communities across the country that the collective impact of organizations working across sectors can influence outcomes for every child. We are excited to bring our proven approach to this initiative and are proud to be part of a landmark effort to accelerate results for youth and families in rural America.”

Rural collective impact combines leadership development, strategic investments, local partnerships and peer learning to ensure children in rural America enter school ready, have a successful education and leave high school prepared for a career or higher education. With the support from the national partners, rural communities are working to change local systems to improve results for children, with an initial focus on early developmental milestones of kindergarten-readiness and third-grade reading and math proficiency.

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“We have the opportunity to harness the expertise of national leaders in education as well as the local communities where we work, to drive progress toward positive outcomes for children in rural America,” said Betsy Zorio, vice president, Save the Children’s U.S. Programs & Advocacy. “We are grateful to our partners for their support, skills and knowledge and look forward to working together to empower communities to create a successful cradle-to-career pathway for every child in rural America. It’s our ambition to take these learnings and scale to support the nearly 2.5 million children growing up in poverty in rural communities.”

“This Rural Accelerator Initiative recognizes that transformative and lasting change in rural communities must be led by community members,” said Dreama Gentry, executive director of Partners for Education. “To do this difficult work, communities need partners who can provide the resources needed to implement change, and we are proud to support the people in rural areas who are leading the way.”

“The Annie E. Casey Foundation has honed an approach to leadership development—called Results Count—that it’s bringing to the Rural Accelerator Leadership Program,” said Shanda Crowder, senior associate at the Casey Foundation. “Participants will become more skilled at making effective and lasting changes that will help children grow up healthier and better off.”

Building on the success of StriveTogether’s work in collective impact across the country, Save the Children’s legacy of serving children in rural America, Partners for Education’s achievements throughout Appalachia, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s powerful Results Count leadership development approach, the national partners plan to expand rural collective impact into additional communities in 2020.

Save the Children works in rural communities across the U.S. where child poverty rates are high and resources are low. StriveTogether is a national nonprofit network that supports children’s educational success. The Annie E. Casey Foundation is devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes.

This article was adapted slightly from the original version on the Berea College website.

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