Editor’s Note: Morgana Freeman is the Executive Director of the Tallahatchie River Foundation which specializes in early childhood education, language and literacy, and third-grade proficiency.
As the executive director of a small family foundation looking to have a large impact on early education, partnerships are the key. Tallahatchie River Foundation (TRF), a private 501 (c)(3) founded by actor Morgan Freeman, focuses on remaking early childhood education programs in his home state of Mississippi. We believe that when our children Thrive By 3rd grade, their lifelong success drives a promising future for society. TRF invests in communities and cross-sector collaborations to improve early childhood outcomes.
Our vision is for every child in Mississippi to Thrive By 3rd grade. Our mission is to ignite transformation in early childhood throughout the state to improve outcomes. Recognizing that children are affected by a number of influences, our approach is multi-faceted. In communities throughout the state, TRF focuses on individuals, environments, policies, systems, and funding that impact student achievement. We have two over-arching goals designed to work in synergy to address the needs of communities statewide: to support improvements in early childhood outcomes at the community level through investment and technical assistance and to facilitate a collective impact model to drive early childhood improvements statewide through a literacy campaign.
Our goals are focused on improvements in 5-impact areas: Engaged Families, Healthy Children, Quality Child Care, Exceptional Teachers, and Extraordinary Schools. We realize that our goals are extremely ambitious and will require years of dedication to be achieved. We also know that we cannot achieve these results alone and that collaboration is an important in part of everything we do — no one person or agency can accomplish this alone.
Being introduced to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading was a game changer for me. It opened up a floodgate of connections and resources to help strengthen the foundation’s work, our efforts as a team, and me as a director. Through the Campaign, I was introduced to Beth Duda and Debra Jacobs of The Patterson Foundation. After hearing them share their work in Sarasota and Manatee, I couldn’t help but request a visit to learn how I too could make such an impact in Mississippi communities. The Patterson Foundation immediately embraced me and gifted me with two fabulous days of emergence in partnerships. I learned how to better leverage my partnerships to amplify the efforts of all vested parties in more ways than three. I left with so many valuable takeaways that will help TRF quickly make strides towards achieving our goals. I find myself a bit lost for words to express the gratitude I have for being able to be among such passionate advocates for children and each other. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is truly something special; my experience with The Patterson Foundation is proof of that. I have more connections, peer mentors, and friends.