By Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker
Now more than ever, there is a need and desire for effective local efforts that will create communities where we want to live, work and raise our children. Our community’s current collaborative efforts to provide equitable opportunities for all are attracting the attention of national funders looking to invest in accelerating our work. Recently, the Schott Foundation for Public Education, a national education justice fund committed to equity and opportunity in public education, profiled Buffalo in its Loving Cities Index.
The Loving Cities Index is a new framework for helping cities look at how well they are doing in providing children with the resources and opportunities needed to learn. As one of 10 cities profiled in the report, the Loving Cities Index shows that Buffalo has taken significant strides in putting supports in place for children in our community. While we are ranked in the top three of the 10 cities profiled in the index, there is still much work to be done to address existing opportunity gaps.
We are pleased to see many of the areas of collaboration where the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo invested over the last decade appear as bright spots in the Index. In particular, the Loving Cities Index highlights the high level of in-school support staff in Buffalo that are helping connect individual students with the services and supports they need to be healthy – mentally, physically and behaviorally – and the progress being made in positive behavior climates and discipline policies.
Identifying any and all opportunities to help a student succeed is the driving force behind the Say Yes Buffalo partnership. By partnering with the Buffalo Public School District, parents, teachers, administrators, city and county government, higher education, community-based organizations, businesses and foundations, we are increasing high school and post-secondary completions rates.
Another inspiring example of cross-sector community leaders coming together with a common goal is the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable. More than 35 leaders from public, private, nonprofit and faith institutions have been working together since 2015 to develop more coordinated solutions to address racial equity gaps in areas, including workforce development, juvenile justice, education and citizen re-entry. The roundtable recognizes that if we want to grow as region, we must ensure that all members of our community have the opportunity to fulfill their highest potential.
Challenging the status quo of division in our communities requires time, focus and steadfast collaborative partnerships. The Loving Cities Index highlights that there are opportunities to improve family sustaining wages, youth safety and civic participation in Buffalo and doing so will have a direct impact on a child’s opportunity to learn and succeed academically. We have more work to do together but with our strong foundation of community collaborations, we can achieve even more success.
Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker is president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.