In September, twelve ROC the Future Alliance members joined more than 600 community leaders from across the country at the 2023 Cradle to Career Network Convening in San Francisco. The annual event is hosted by StriveTogether, a national movement working to ensure every child has an opportunity to succeed in school and in life. As a member of the Cradle to Career Network, ROC the Future Alliance (RTFA) supports StriveTogether’s mission to break down barriers and change systems (such as education, health care, and human services) for 14 million youth — including nearly 8 million children of color.

The three-day Cradle to Career Network Convening is an important opportunity for RTFA to connect with like-minded organizations who advocate for racial equity, to learn more about addressing power imbalances, and to share our knowledge about creating systems change in Rochester. The theme of this year’s Cradle to Career Network event centered on the pursuit of our “North Star” as we chart a course toward economic mobility for all members of our communities.

Parent/Family Partner Power In Action
Over the summer, RTFA Parent/Family Partners (PFPs) and full-time staff completed an application to present at the Cradle to Career Network Convening. We were thrilled when StriveTogether accepted our proposal!

PFPs Toyin Anderson and Nahmese Bacot worked with a sub-team from RTFA’s Whole Child Initiative to develop a workshop on a topic that truly represents RTFA’s work in the Rochester community — Building Parent/Family Partner Power: A Systems Change Blueprint. The goal of the workshop was for attendees to walk away with an understanding of the role that Parent/Family Partners must play to change structures and systems and improve outcomes for children aged 0-8.

The presentation was very well received. Several attendees commented on how much they learned, including two senior executives from StriveTogether who described the workshop as “impactful.” But a few attendees were skeptical coming into the session, questioning whether parents really played a role in addressing power imbalances and creating systems change. “We did have a few naysayers,” said Sarah White-Smith, Director of ROC the Future Alliance’s Whole Child Initiative. “One attendee didn’t believe RTFA staff actually listened to parents, or that our work was centered on their ideas and lived experience.”

Then Bacot and Anderson shared their experience as co-creators of solutions — as full partners who have a seat at the table and a voice when major decisions are made. They shared how parents played a role in establishing advanced telemedicine units across the Rochester City School District. And attendees noticed that RTFA was the only organization at the convening that invited parents to present on its behalf. “After attending Nahmese and Toyin’s workshop,” Smith recalled, “attendees left thinking, ‘if they can do it, we can do it too.’”

Key Takeaways and Affirmations
A key takeaway from the Cradle to Career Network Convening was that, despite making solid progress in recent years, our work has just begun. Reflecting on the event in a recent LinkedIn post, StriveTogether President and CEO Jennifer Blatz said, “Now, it’s time to reach higher, bolder and bigger — and put 4 million more young people on a path to economic mobility.”

ROC the Future Alliance is more focused than ever on helping to achieve this goal. “The convening in San Francisco reaffirmed that we are on the right path, and in some cases ahead of many other communities that are part of the StriveTogether network,” said Smith. “We’re proud of the progress we’ve made with parent and community engagement. We look forward to building on it, but overall, we’re going to stay the course because it’s working.”

To learn more about ROC the Future Alliance and how we are making a difference for children and families in Rochester, New York, please visit our website.