The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions goes back centuries, and most of us in the closing days of this year will reflect on our priorities and make our own declarations for 2014. As singer-songwriter Brad Paisley has said: New Year’s Day “is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.”
As you consider your resolutions for the coming year, we hope one of them will be about the youngest children in our community. To inspire you, we asked some local leaders to share their resolutions:
Leigh Shockey, chairman of the board, Greater Memphis Chamber:
It is absolutely vital that all our children receive the opportunity for a quality education. One of the Chamber’s focuses in 2014 is going to be to help make that happen because for this region to be successful, our citizens—of all ages—need opportunities for growth.
David Williams, president, Leadership Memphis:
Already being 100 percent committed to 0-3 early childhood makes developing a New Year’s Resolution a tall order. Leadership Memphis is doing many things in partnership with The Urban Child Institute to increase community awareness and understanding around this issue; however, I also believe one can always do more. Thus, I resolve to create a specific program within a program for students in our Success High School initiative to learn the facts about early childhood development. These students will produce the next generation of youth (0-3) and this advanced information will be a strong prevention intervention for the future parents.
Jim Strickland, chairman, Memphis City Council:
My New Year's resolution is that we, as a community, make it a priority to better prepare our youngest children to read. Last year, only 28% of third graders in Memphis City School read at third grade level. This is not acceptable. We need to focus on the 72% who need the most help.
Derwin Sisnett, CEO, Gestalt Community Schools:
My New Year's resolution for our city is to embody the essence of what it means to be a village that takes care of its own; that we invest our time and resources into our most precious resource, our children, and that we take pride in fostering the development of our children from the moment they are conceived.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton:
With respect to our children, my wish is that we can change the discourse from what we “spend on” to what we “invest in” our children.
Darrell Cobbins, chair, board of trustees, New Memphis Institute:
My New Year's wish for our children is that they one day inherit a community that has been lovingly cultivated for their future benefit, ripe with opportunities, cooperation, and a genuine love and caring for each other's welfare. The foundation must be built by us all today to make this future a reality for our children tomorrow.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell:
As you’re reading this, the eyes of a child, whether in the far reaches of our county or in the inner city, look into the eyes of an adult. In that child’s eyes is a plea for help. It might be for basic necessities such as food, comfort during an illness, assistance with homework or guidance because a parent is not around due to death, divorce, job duties or even being incarcerated. We in elected office need to have a child’s needs as one of our top priorities. Yet, government is limited in its ability to meet all the needs of its citizens, especially children. Whether it’s through faith-based organizations, neighborhood groups, or the business community, please consider using your God-given talents and your specific sphere of influence to serve children in Shelby County. As we begin 2014, it is my sincere hope the next generation of Shelby County citizens will be productive and engaged in its community thanks to your efforts to assist us.
Kevin Woods, chairman of board, Shelby County Schools:
As we come upon another year, it is my wish that we will soon realize Superintendent Hopson’s and the Shelby County School board’s wish that all students will be able to read at or above grade level by the time they exit third grade. As we embark on this ambitious challenge to drastically improve the percentage of students reading at grade level, we know it will take the entire community to make this a reality. We know we cannot do this alone, but together, we can ensure that all children will have access to a high-quality education, regardless of where they live or family background.
And finally, from Gene Cashman, president and CEO, The Urban Child Institute, whose Perceptions you are kind enough to read each month:
My new year’s resolutions is that our community's investments in children will be guided by what we have learned about early childhood brain development and by best practice research of what we - as a community of parents, providers, and professionals - should be doing to help children be successful, providing them with nurturing and educational experiences from the very beginning. In this way, we live the truth that children are our future.
As the last days of this year draw to a close, all of us at The Urban Child Institute extend our best wishes for you to have a very happy new year. We look forward to working with you in the coming year for the youngest children in our community to have their best opportunities in life.