The Wednesday resumption of monthly general meetings will mark the start of Gainesville for All’s fourth year of taking on many of the formidable contributors to the racial and economic divisions that persist in this community.
We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made since 2016, which is updated in our GNV4All Phase 3 report to the community and can be found at http://bit.ly/gnv4allphasethree. But we understand well that the journey is only beginning.
We also welcome the new energy around eradicating racial injustices and reducing poverty that is emerging in varying sectors of the community among college students and government, business, civic and school district leaders as well as the general public.
After all, if this community is ever to truly become Gainesville for ALL, it will take the hard work and cooperation of as many of its citizens as possible.
If you haven’t already aligned with one of the growing number of change-advocate groups around the city and county, we welcome your attendance at our next meeting on Wednesday in the cafeteria at Metcalfe Elementary School, 1250 NE 18th Ave.
We began holding meetings at Metcalfe and nearby Rawlings elementary schools earlier this year because they are our focus schools in the Gainesville Empowerment Zone, which GNV4ALL launched last October. The GEZ was created to address social and economic problems in an area bounded by Northeast Ninth Street, Northeast 39th Avenue, Waldo Road and Northeast 16th Avenue. This area has some of the highest rates of poverty in Alachua County, and until the release this summer of the latest school grades, Metcalfe and Rawlings were among the worst performers in the county and state.
Now that Metcalfe has moved from a “D” rating to a “B” and Rawlings from a “D” to a “C” — largely due to the schools’ leadership, faculties and staff — we hope to complement the academic improvements by helping to identify and link social services that can benefit both the schools’ students and families.
We were successful earlier this year in helping create a Reading Pals program at Metcalfe, using volunteers who read to students at least once each week. In the works is a Morning Mile program that involves preparing students for the school day with physical exercise. Both Morning Mile and Reading Pals are already underway at Rawlings.
Too, we have partnered with the SMILE mentoring program to help recruit mentors for fourth and fifth graders at Rawlings. Orientation for new volunteers is set for Wednesday, 1 p.m., at Rawlings. For more information, contact organizers at email@example.com.
For most of the three years that GNV4ALL has been around, our transportation team, led by Wendy Resnick, has been pushing the Regional Transit System to provide free fares for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. It’s encouraging to see the county’s voter-approved Children Trust show interest in funding such a proposal, which would place Gainesville among Florida municipalities such as Tallahassee and Tampa providing fare-free service to students.
Local governments and school districts are finally realizing that free-fares can not only help student absentee and tardy rates, which are huge problems in city schools, but also help get students to after-school programs and jobs.
In the upcoming months look for one of our most ambitious proposals for systemic change to date. Our team of early learning experts and community leaders are still studying how to add early learning for ages 0 to 3 to public education. Currently programs for this age group are offered mostly by private providers, and as a consequence too many children from poor families, in particular, are left out.
This is happening despite research showing that the first five years of a child’s life are critical to future learning. The sooner they are prepared to learn such functions as counting, recognizing colors, shapes and letters, the better. These young children are more likely to read at the appropriate level in third grade and they are 90 percent of the time more likely to graduate high school.
As Gainesville for All has been saying since its inception, early learning should be as much a part of public education as kindergarten. Let’s get started right here in Gainesville! We’ll keep you updated on our progress.
Remember, to get involved with GNV4ALL and/or the GEZ come out to our general meeting on Wednesday at Metcalfe or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re serious about making the desire for change a reality.
James F. Lawrence is director of GNV4ALL. Follow us on social media (www.facebook.com/GNV4ALL and twitter.com/GNV4ALL).