At the Oct. 15 meeting of the City-School Liaison Committee, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon and District 202 Board member Bill Geiger reported progress in solidifying the Evanston Cradle-to-Career Initiative (EC2C).

The initiative, almost two years in the planning, is built on the premise of “collective impact” – that schools, institutions, community organizations, business groups and others can have a greater impact by working together to address complex social and educational issues than working alone.

The plan is to address the needs of Evanston youth, starting at birth, in a holistic fashion and to focus on all factors that impact learning, health and social and emotional development. The vision is “By the age of 23, all Evanston young adults will be leading productive lives.”

“We had very positive feedback from attendees at the last meeting,” said Mr. Geiger. “Our primary focuses are on organizational structure, communications and the executive-director search,” he added.

“We have 47 applications,” Dr. Witherspoon said, adding, “The goal is to have the director hired before winter break, so the person can start in January.”

Dr. Paul Goren, District 65 Superintendent, said, “Alderman [Delores] Holmes [a member of the EC2C Planning Committee] continues to push us to ask the questions, ‘Who is not here? How do we get them to come to the table?’”

Mr. Geiger also said, “We have an increasing set of resources.” In a separate interview, Mr. Geiger said, “United Way has expanded the successful impact they are making in the collective impact model. While United Way hasn’t formally announced the decision as to who has been selected to be in its Neighborhood Network – they have two existing ones and are launching others – and we expect to be included [in that announcement].”

If EC2C is selected by United Way to be a Neighborhood Network, said Mr. Geiger, “what comes with that is an invitation to apply for a $50,000 planning grant in the first year. It’s a virtual certainly that those who apply will get it.” In addition, he said, United Way offers in-kind technical support – valued at about $25,000 – that will assist in data and measurement, which is really, really, really important. … Then what follows is the opportunity to apply for sustainability grants, which could be in the six figures and multi-year.”

That money, Mr. Geiger said, would be “new money,” not funds diverted from other programs.

Mr. Geiger also said United Way personnel have “jumped in to our weekly meetings on a roll-up-your-sleeves basis. So we’re learning from them.”

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...