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Together for Tomorrow: Expanding Community Partnerships for Education

by Robert Velasco, II

Today, I was thrilled to be with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at Memorial Middle School in Orlando, FL to announce Together for Tomorrow, a new initiative to expand community engagement and citizen service to improve low-performing schools.

We know that the strategies that best help students achieve go beyond the classroom. They include talented teachers, committed parents, and engaged communities. That's why we have joined with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to launch this initiative that promotes a community culture where education improvement is viewed as everyone's responsibility.

The Orlando community is one of six demonstration sites where AmeriCorps VISTA members are working with other national service programs and community partners to build capacity, manage volunteer resources and facilitate the relationships between schools and faith-based and secular organizations.

They are developing the critical community partnerships shown to improve student outcomes in the ABCs (attendance, behavior, course performance, and college access). Other demonstration sites are in New Orleans; Memphis; Denver and Center, Colorado; and New Haven, Connecticut, with planning under way in other cities.

For decades, national service has been improving learning and strengthening schools. Through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, service-learning, and other initiatives, CNCS brings tens of thousands of teachers, tutors, mentors and volunteers to schools every year – providing the consistent, caring and responsible adults that every child needs to thrive.

But much more needs to be done to transform struggling schools and provide every child an education that will enable them to succeed in a global economy. In this country, no child's destiny should be determined by a zip code. We must be in this work of giving every child a quality education, together.

In the coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Education will officially launch the initiative with a series of partnership events and a national challenge through Challenge.gov. Together for Tomorrow will spotlight exemplary programs underway that have strong capacity to manage school-community partnerships and demonstrate progress in the ABCs. Supporting services will involve providing guidance on how to harness existing federal, private and nonprofit funding streams in addition to connecting local programs with technical assistance opportunities.

This initiative builds on the great work that many of our programs have been doing for years, and aligns with our strategic goals in education.Our press release has more about the launch of Together for Tomorrow, and in the coming weeks we'll provide more information about how you can be a part of this important national initiative.

Robert Velasco, II, is the Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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