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YWCA of Minneapolis Hosts Screening of “The Raising of America”

By YWCA of Minneapolis
April 1, 2016
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Pictured from left to right: Becky Roloff, Arnoldo Curiel, Nick Butler, Katie Pierce, Deby Ziesmer, Melvin B. Carter III and Senator Melissa Franzen.

YWCA of Minneapolis hosted a screening, in partnership with Kids Can’t Wait Coalition, of “The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation” on March 31. This new five-part documentary special produced by California Newsreel and aired on PBS probes how conditions faced by young children and their families form the foundation for a child’s later success – both in school and in life. The third episode was screened: “Are We Crazy About Our Kids?”, which demonstrates how investing in high-quality early care and education pays for itself in many ways and many times over. This episode illustrates how we as a community and state can either invest early for success or pay more for failure later.

Following the screening, YWCA of Minneapolis hosted a panel moderated by our CEO, Becky Roloff. Given the direct relationship of the legislature and policy decisions on early childhood education, Senator Melissa Franzen and Melvin B. Carter III, Director of the Office of Early Learning at the Minnesota Department of Education, joined parents from the YWCA Children’s Center on the panel to discuss messages of the film and how investing in early childhood education can be both affordable to families now and economically beneficial to Minnesota in the future.

Key Messages included:

  • Sen. Franzen stated that we need to invest in early childhood education. It’s important not only to the future of our children, but to the future of Minnesota.
  • Melvin Carter responded to a question from a parent regarding how hard it is to make it to the Capitol because their lives get so busy, but they wanted to know how their voice could be heard. Mr. Carter stressed how important it is to make time to come to the Capitol. Elected officials want to hear from constituents. Your voices do make a difference, and elected officials will listen to you.

Our voices as individuals and collectively as a community are critical to these conversations. In fiscal year 2015, more than 650 children from more than 500 families attended community focused YWCA of Minneapolis Children’s Centers, of which more than 65% were from households living in poverty. Consistently more than 90% test ready for kindergarten, and nearly 90% of all ages, infants through preschoolers, are developmentally on track. We have no achievement gap at YWCA of Minneapolis.

However, many children in our communities are not doing so well. According to data from Generation Next, in Minneapolis, 91% of white students enter kindergarten ready to learn compared with 59% of students of color. In Saint Paul, 93% of white students enter kindergarten meeting Saint Paul’s oral literacy benchmark, compared with 68% of students of color.

This education gap in our community is why YWCA of Minneapolis partnered with California Newsreel to be a part of the five-part documentary series “The Raising of America”. The film series attempts to delve into the questions; why are so many children in America faring so poorly? What are the consequences for the nation’s future? How might we, as a nation, do better? The intent is to spark conversation and educate people on the importance of brain development in the very earliest years of a child’s life. It is to help people understand the many stressors and barriers that families with young children face on a daily and sometimes hourly basis all across our country. It explores what our society’s social responsibility is to its children – the very core of our future as a nation. The documentary gives insight into what action we can take on the ground right now to move this critical issue forward and bring it into the light.