By Wendell E. Kimbrough, ARCHS' Chief Executive Officer
The recent report issued by the Ferguson Commission must become a unifying moment for St. Louis' education and not-for-profit communities. The 198-page document covers a variety of recommendations for the justice system, social programs, and community organizations. A major pillar of those recommendations covers the needs of our region's most vulnerable children.
Upon receiving the report, ARCHS' team conducted an audit of how our current programming supports the recommendations outlined. I was not surprised to discover that ARCHS is actively engaged in the four regional themes framed: Justice for All; Youth at the Center; Opportunity to Thrive; and Racial Equality.
ARCHS and our education and not-for-profit colleagues have been at the forefront of advancing these themes for many years.
ARCHS annually improves the lives of more than 90,000 African Americans living in the region's highest concentrations of poverty. This work represents a multi-generational change that starts with giving children the best possible start – quality pre-school care, extra meals during the summer, glasses for improved vision in the classroom, and safe after-school programming that engages both mind and body.
Our reach extends beyond children through adulthood; we provide parent coaching, job training, life skills building, physical fitness, and much more. Our lifelong learning approach addresses core issues facing our region including reducing cycles of poverty and improving educational attainment. This level of positive impact on St. Louis' at-risk families is achieved through an annual $16.5 million dollar investment in partnership with 200 education and social service organizations.
We take our responsibility seriously, and our system is founded on the belief that our services need to be provided to vulnerable St. Louisans where they are: embedded in schools, homes, and faith-based communities. Our partnerships provide services and programs at more than 300 locations – primarily in the underserved urban core of the metropolitan region.
We promote the sharing of best practices to achieve life changing results. It's our way of system building that improves the quality of human and educational services region wide.
"Our region's youth present our greatest opportunity to impact positive and lasting change, in this and future generations," says the report. "These signature calls to action speak to the needs of children and youth. In the area of child well-being, the calls to action address supporting the whole child, ending hunger for children and families, reforming school discipline, and leveraging the influence of schools to improve childhood health. In the area of education infrastructure reform, the calls to action address early childhood education, education innovation, and school accreditation."
As the Ferguson Commission's report outlines, there's a lot of work to be done. However, there is also a deep regional bench of expertise and resources to help achieve these goals. ARCHS and our fellow organizations are engaged in fostering generational change through the thousands of programs we are already delivering.
St. Louis is known for its many reports and tasks forces. In the past, many of these efforts have had minimal impact. It is my personal belief the forward momentum that is outlined in the Ferguson Commission's report will not gather dust.
Influencing hearts, minds, and policies will be a long process. Taking action shouldn't.
The Ferguson Commission has called out our region's problems. Now, it's time for us to move from words to deeds. We all have a part to play. ARCHS is ready, and we hope you are too.
Please take a moment to do your own internal self-audit to see how your organization is currently engaged in making positive changes to address the issues outlined in the Ferguson report.
You won't be surprised to learn your organization is already doing a great deal of work to move us "forward through Ferguson."