Lehigh Valley Reads Works With StoryCorps and Together for Students to Capture Stories of Lehigh Valley Families During the Covid-19 Crisis
Systemic racial inequities exposed by COVID-19 heighten the need for systems transformation
Bethlehem, PA - March 24, 2021 -StoryCorps, the notable nonprofit working to preserve and share humanity's stories, prompted local conversations about race, education and opportunity in partnership with Lehigh Valley Reads. Recorded at the height of the pandemic, these conversations shed light on values that bring people together.
Lehigh Valley Reads has been working alongside Together For Students, which leverages the strengths of Communities In Schools, the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Coalition for Community Schools, StriveTogether, and is funded by Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. In total, four cities – Lehigh Valley, PA; Chicago, IL; Dayton, OH; and Memphis, TN – participated.
“This entire experience with Together For Students has been transformational. By harnessing the power of storytelling, this series illustrates the exponential impact of positive relationships. We hope that it empowers students and families to join us as we build school communities where every child belongs and every child thrives,” added Jill Pereira, Vice President of Education and Impact, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.
This work was rooted in the belief that every child should have every opportunity to succeed. COVID-19 exposed systemic weaknesses that interrupted learning for many children of color and children living in poverty. This led to a desire to hear directly from community members, to amplify their voices to raise the invisible to the visible. These stories help inform and shape the larger work being done.
“Local organizations like Lehigh Valley Reads are helping their community change the systems that fail so many families of color and families experiencing poverty. There is tremendous need and opportunity to redefine what’s possible,” says Jennifer Blatz, President and CEO of StriveTogether. “But this all begins by listening to the needs of the community and to hold their stories at the center of all work being done in this area.”
The entire collection of stories is available to listen to at: https://www.strivetogether.org/insights/category/community-conversations/
About Lehigh Valley Reads
Lehigh Valley Reads is a regional literacy campaign committed to ensuring that all Lehigh Valley students read on grade level by the end of third grade by 2025. This collective impact initiative is powered by United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and PBS39. With over 100 community partners working together to maximize resources, Lehigh Valley Reads is a collective impact initiative with five key focus areas: early childhood education, summer learning, school attendance, trauma-informed classrooms and Community Schools.
About Together For Students
Together for Students is a collaboration between the Coalition for Community Schools, Community In Schools, and StriveTogether, working together to invest in young people with a vision of children being in the center of the education experience. It is supported by the Ford Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
About Coalition for Community Schools
Supported by the Institute for Educational Leadership, the Coalition for Community Schools evolved since 1998 as an ecosystem of national, state, and local cross-sector leaders that promote community schools as an equity-driven, researched-based strategy, and fights for justice and investments for young people’s access to resources, supports, and opportunities they deserve to advance their hopes and fulfill their social responsibility.
The strengths of the Coalition are the close relationships we have with thousands of grassroots to grasstops leaders, organized in networks to expand their knowledge, skills, beliefs, and practices; and our ability to prepare, support, and mobilize leaders, to create transformative and innovative solutions to disrupt the status quo, and eliminate systemic and structural barriers to equitable outcomes in education.
About Communities In Schools
Communities In Schools® (CIS™) is a national organization that ensures every student, regardless of race, zip code, or socioeconomic background has what they need to realize their potential in school and beyond. Working directly inside more than 2,900 schools across the country, we connect students to caring adults and community resources that help them see, confront, and overcome the barriers that stand between them and a brighter future. Together, we build a powerful change movement made up of peers, students, and alumni committed to building an equitable path to education for future generations.
StriveTogether partners with nearly 70 communities across the country to advance equity so local success stories can become the reality for every child, everywhere. They work to transform failing systems using collaborative improvement and a proven framework for change. The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network is closing disparity gaps in education, housing and so much more. Together, they impacted the lives of more than 12 million youth — more than half are children of color — across 30 states and Washington, D.C. Learn more at StriveTogether.org.