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Norwalk ACTS quarterly convening: focus on social justice and equity for Norwalk’s children

A Norwalk ACTS dashboard.

From left, Anthony Allison, Bruce Ritter, Monisha Gibson, Rev. Lindsay Curtis and Cathy DeCesare of Norwalk ACTS. (Contributed)

NORWALK, Conn. — At the quarterly “convening” of Norwalk ACTS held on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at Stepping Stones Museum, community leaders gathered to celebrate achievements, recognize the work of key members, and discuss goals for the coming year.

Norwalk ACTS is a diverse partnership of more than 100 civic leaders, educators and organizations working collectively to achieve the mission of enriching and improving the lives and futures of all Norwalk’s children, cradle to career.

CEO Jennifer Barahona, who joined Norwalk ACTS seven months ago, cited the “foundation of cooperation and trust” among the community organizations within Norwalk ACTS. “Expect these relationships to expand in 2020,” she added. “We know that this work needs to include people we are serving, so we are going to make a much more explicitly effort to develop a grass roots community outreach.”

An overall theme of the meeting was the importance of building relationships as well as the need for social justice and equity in education. Barahona noted “we’ve got a small group starting to meet about goals in that area,” and Norwalk ACTS plans on more to be done in this area in 2020. “Our work is not just about eliminating disparities, but advancing equity” as well, she said. Norwalk ACTS will continue to partner with community organizations that can further this effort.

 

A Norwalk ACTS dashboard.

New data dashboards 

Barahona also commended her data department, which has created several dashboards that provide an in-depth look at demographics and trends in Norwalk education. These dashboards are a “drill down source for live data,” on how Norwalk’s children are doing, said Barahona. “Expect to see our data work expand even further” in 2020, she added.

 

Norwalk ACTS initiatives highlighted

Attendees of the meeting participated in 5-minute small group sessions that offered a deeper dive into the accomplishments and goals of various community initiatives. Among these are: TEAM Summer/Outside-of-School programs; Career and College Ready Exploration; English Language Learning (ELL); Social and Emotional; Prenatal to 3rd Grade Initiatives. The Prenatal to 3rd Grade initiatives include working groups for Early Childhood Heal and Development; Home Visiting; PreK-K Transition; and Language/Literacy.

 

Rev. Lindsay Curtis recognized

This year’s recipient of Norwalk ACTS Sally Grose Visionary award is Rev. Lindsay Curtis, who was among the early leaders of Norwalk ACTS and served as a B

oard member for many years. Curtis is stepping down from the Board this year.

Introducing Curtis, board member Bruce Ritter said, “his words and deeds speak of his love for Norwalk’s children and his passion for social justice.” Monisha Gibson, Co-Owner/C.E.O., Odyssey Early Learning and Enrichment Program, referred to Curtis as a mentor and thanked him personally. “Thank you for teaching us to work together collaboratively and collectively. Norwalk is a better place for it. Thank you,” she said.

Curtis is pastor of the historic Grace Baptist Church, a Commissioner on Connecticut’s Judicial Selection Commission, chaplain to the Norwalk Fire Department, a Board Member of the Urban League of Southern Connecticut, and a Past-President of the Norwalk Branch NAACP.

After thanking the audience, Curtis alluded to current tensions in Norwalk around education and emphasized the need for social justice and equity. “Not everyone in the community has gotten it. There is much work to be done,” he said. “Our children are watching… let it be about our children, not our egos.”

 

Allison departing in March

As a final note to the meeting, Anthony Allison noted that he will be leaving Norwalk ACTS at the end of March.  “I’ve been deeply honored to be in this position since 2014,” he said, adding that he hopes to continue to support the efforts of Norwalk ACTS.

The next quarterly convening will be held from 9-11 a.m. March 17 at Stepping Stones Museum. Members of the community are invited to attend.

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