October 26, 2018 A Song That Requires Every Voice in the Chorus

 

A song that gets trapped in your head on endless replay can be a challenge of epic proportions.

If you left the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Update Breakfast with the “Strive for Less than Five Days Absent” melody rotating on a permanent loop in your mind, you weren’t the only one. It stayed with me through my walk to the car, along construction-filled U.S. 41 north to Bradenton, into the office, and then home that day.

The entire Campaign for Grade Level reading is like that. It’s an ongoing melody of people working together—some dancing, some singing, some watching and waiting for the right time to join, realizing the answer is always “now.”

The melody implores us to keep working toward the common goal of making sure that all of our children—not just the ones born into a particular zip code or circumstance—are nurtured in the ways they need to be successful from the start.

Our song is about more than reading. It’s about equity, health and well-being, parental engagement, relationships, and all sectors working together. It’s also about the hard stuff. We sometimes want to quit the song once we have heard it a few times. Many years before the Campaign had a formal name and a unified plan, nonprofit organizations were working to narrow the opportunity margins for all students. They continue the work today.

Manatee Community Foundation loves singing the song of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. We feel that we are all listening to the same radio station, and the broadcast is gaining new ground in helping every member of our community understand that each of us has a responsibility in education. We have to support the work of our schools, realizing that only 14% of a student’s life is spent inside the classroom.

As the lead singer in Manatee County’s campaign, United Way Suncoast uses its voice to urge all of us to contribute to the chorus, lyrics, and musical arrangement. They are conscientious partners, bringing collaboration, sincerity, dedication, and flexibility to the work.

Manatee Community Foundation donors John and Amanda Horne, Steve and Carolyn Roskamp, Conrad and Ruth Ann Szymanski, and many others give our song broadcast strength through generous financial and volunteer resources.

They have been the fuel behind well-established programs that bring hope and results to children and families, but they are also leaders in adding voices to spaces that need further exploration. New roles for our business community, new partnerships with the School District, and new local support for pediatricians’ engagement combine to offer possibilities that make a difference and attract new donors.

Donors who have created and supported the Soar in 4, Reach Out and Read, and Dive Into Reading Funds through the Manatee Community Foundation also roll up their sleeves and volunteer. Whether it’s making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for children and families in the Soar in 4 program at the South Florida Museum or coordinating hundreds of volunteer readers at Anna Maria Oyster Bar, they are an ever-present melody with lots of heart and lots of soul.

This is the essence of Manatee County and the reason people commit, follow, invent, and participate in a song that requires every voice in the chorus.

We’re so glad to be part of it all, even if the song never gets out of our heads at the end of the day.