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CIS Takes Part in Aspen Institute Seminar

Resource type: News

Communities In Schools |

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This year’s historic presidential campaign has evoked feelings of change and new possibilities, as our country explores the roles of gender and race not only in politics, but in society. Communities In Schools, long familiar with racial disparities in education, participated in a dialogue about racial equity during a recent seminar in Aspen, Colorado.

Twenty-one representatives from the CIS network took part in a week-long seminar on Race Equity and Youth Development at the Aspen Institute, July 21-25. It was the first seminar of this type that the Aspen Institute has conducted with all of the participants from the same organization. CIS representation consisted of national board members, national office senior staff members and donors, in addition to CIS state directors and local executive directors. Some members of this group will compose a CIS national task force on racial equity, and find ways to use what was learned at the seminar to inform the organization’s work.

After a week of learning about the structural racism framework and its implications for youth development work with children of color, participants saw the relevance and importance of this work to the CIS mission.

“If we say we care about kids, and the majority of the ones we serve are children of color, how can we not be serious about dealing with the social injustices that exist in public education?” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president, Communities In Schools, Inc.

Cardinali was first invited to attend an Aspen Institute seminar on racial equity in 2006. After that seminar, he returned with a plan to integrate this work into the CIS Theory of Change. The Theory of Change is CIS’ evidence-based premise that providing integrated student services results in positive outcomes for students and schools. Through support from The Atlantic Philanthropies, a customized Aspen Institute seminar was developed just for CIS.

The time in Aspen was not just for learning. Participants spent considerable time strategizing about how to integrate what they learned into the daily work of Communities In Schools – at all levels of the organization. “The Aspen Institute seminar was an incredible experience,” said Veronica Biggins, CIS national board member.“CIS has the reach and access to students which can really make a difference. We’re already seeing ways we can put into action what we’ve learned, and directions we can move in to improve services and opportunities for students of color.”

As we enter at a time when the country is actively engaged in discussions about equity issues, CIS will be an informed contributor to the discourse and to the development of a solution.

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