The District 65 and 202 School Boards received an update on the Evanston Cradle-to-Career Initiative (EC2C) at their Nov. 3 joint Board meeting.

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.”

“Collective impact is different than simply cooperating or collaborating” said Eric Witherspoon, District 202 Superintendent. “It’s actually a shared accountability. I think that is a real key to it – that all of the entities that sign on, that agree to be partners in Cradle to Career, are agreeing to share accountability for the outcomes of the youth in our community.”

Dr. Witherspoon said 24 organizations have agreed to join EC2C, adding, “This is only the beginning.”

Forty-seven persons have applied for the executive director position, and the partners hope to have the executive director in place before the winter break.

Paul Goren, superintendent of District 65, said the partners have created a task force to reach out to those who might be deeply concerned about the issues EC2C will be addressing but who might not normally participate. He said the task force, led by Alderman Delores Holmes, is making “a deep commitment to engage those who are normally engaged and also broader sets of the community.”

Maria Allison, chief strategy officer of District 65, said another task force was formed to focus on operations. Among other things, this task force will propose a leadership structure for EC2C which will be responsible for communication, building a structure to coordinate across solution design teams, managing data, setting up an accountability model and administrating finances.

Bill Geiger, a District 202 Board member, said the District 65/202 Joint Literacy Goal was an example of what can tangibly be accomplished through EC2C. He noted that District 202 and other youth organizations were partnering at Oakton Elementary School to help students increase their reading proficiency.

District 202 Board member Jonathan Baum said he hoped EC2C would go beyond simply coordinating and aligning work. “I hope we’re open to really significant change,” he said.

Current Partners in EC@C

Dr. Witherspoon said the following organizations have agreed to partner in EC2C: Allowance for Good; Center for Independent Futures; Child Care Network; City of Evanston; Connections for the Homeless; Evanston Chamber of Commerce; Evanston Community Foundation; Evanston Scholars; Infant Welfare Society; Learn to Work, Work to Learn Evanston 150 Task Force; McGaw Y; The Moran Center; Northwestern University; Oakton Community College; Peer Services; Reba Early Childhood Learning Center; School District 65; School District 202; Second Baptist Church; St. Nicholas Parish; United Way Northshore; Youth Job Center; Youth Organization Umbrella; and YWCA Evanston/Northshore.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...