In the past year and a half, we experienced a global pandemic and racial injustice that reached a tipping point in our nation. As we rebuild, it’s more critical than ever to elevate and listen to the voices of communities and shift power to those who are most impacted by systemic inequities.

The Together For Students initiative underscores the principle that the needs of students must be at the center of the work. Together For Students launched in 2016 to align community resources to support the success of every child. This initiative — a partnership among national organizations Coalition for Community Schools, Communities In Schools and StriveTogether along with four place-based partnerships — is designed to transform how organizations can work together to support students and families. Each community has a unique focus for their impact: racial equity in Dayton, Ohio, community schooling models in Memphis, Tenn., social-emotional learning in Chicago, Ill., and literacy achievement in Lehigh Valley, Penn. In 2019, the first year of implementation, communities used shared principles to guide efforts at the local and national levels.

When the initiative began, no one could have predicted the events of the past year or their impact. Partnerships had to adapt quickly to best serve the needs of their communities. While plans shifted, the communities’ focus on supporting students and families remained steadfast. The partners worked together to curate lessons learned through the year and developed resources to share with others.

One key lesson was the importance of building — and at times rebuilding — trusting relationships. Partners continued developing strong relationships to best serve students and families. With Together For Students funds, local partners could incentivize collaboration to build new relationships and a sense of trust, rethinking how to be responsive to community needs in a time that required flexibility.  In Dayton, Ohio, one participant noted that the funding created space to reimagine and reorganize collaboration in the community so that progress could be made together. In Memphis, Tenn., the role of community schools was more important than ever, and partner engagement increased to support students and families so that needs were met.

Read the full article about prioritizing students and families by Akshayaa Venkatakrishnan at StriveTogether.