I am so grateful to the thoughtful, accomplished people who spent the day sharing their personal journeys and best ideas with us at the 2018 Grow Our Own summit. Our panelists (pictured) and speakers offered so much wisdom and hope that we can come together around complex issues and find solutions that work for all. We had 450 people at this amazing event!
Southwest Initiative Foundation’s mission is connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities. Grow Our Own is our way of bringing all these elements together in order to set our kids up to be southwest Minnesota’s next generation of employees, entrepreneurs, community leaders, volunteers, homeowners and parents.
We recognize solutions to close the opportunity gap for kids living in poverty are complicated and will take all of us working together if we want to set kids up for a lifetime of success. It’s about addressing immediate needs like health, hunger, education, and safety. Folks in Ortonville went back to their community after the 2016 Summit and launched a weekend backpack food program to ensure kids weren’t going hungry at home. The Windom school board voted to eliminate activity fees to encourage participation regardless of ability to pay.
And, it’s about long-term investments that help them thrive and reach their full potential. An outcome of early conversations around career pathways in Hutchinson helped spark the development of TigerPath Academies – a public/private/nonprofit collaboration to connect students to local businesses and exciting career options starting in 9th grade.
Our rural communities are working from a position of strength. We have good schools, safe neighborhoods and a strong spirit of collaboration across sectors and communities. And we cannot let those assets lull us into thinking that it will all work out. We must envision what we want for our children and our communities to look like 10, 20, 30 years from now and work toward that vision.
The inspiring stories we heard in Marshall, the ideas and innovations being brought forward, and the shared values that unite us bring me back to the work every day with hope and a fresh perspective.
In addition to concrete ideas to take back home, I hope those who attended will find staying power in the larger community being created around our kids. If we’re going to sustain the efforts that really do impact our kids, we have to stay motivated, focused and energized.
What’s next? That is up to you! The Foundation will continue to focus proactively on addressing the child care crisis, supporting the development of career pathways for our high school students, seeking nonprofit partners that are on the front lines of closing the opportunity gap, and working with entrepreneurs to grow the businesses that make our communities strong.
And we want to listen and learn. What are the challenges and opportunities in your community? Invite us in for a conversation, share your ideas, and we’ll figure out how our resources align with your vision for the future of your community.
Let’s start by spreading the word. We’re happy to share this message in your community. Contact us to request a local presentation for your city, church, or service club. And watch for details about a special broadcast of summit speakers, reactions and exclusive interviews produced by Pioneer Public Television in early 2019.
I closed the summit with a saying attributed to painter Vincent van Gogh, and I want to share it with you here as well: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Let’s come together for our kids!Contact us to request a local presentation.