LETTER: The Brilliance of the Greenwich Alliance for Education

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor:

Every year, the Greenwich Alliance for Education’s Turkey Trot gets bigger and better. Families are craving — not just the rich, over-indulgent experience of Turkey Day and the Day after frenzied hunting for mo’ and mo’ stuff but the desire to be truly connected to their community, to their neighbors, to reach out and give back to a specific child and family. Families in Greenwich feel the need to extend their circle of influence and generosity beyond the 2.3 children in 06878 that they are slaving for! They know, deep down, this is what is good for their children as well, to have them see their parents in relationships with others, sharing the blessings of their family’s wealth, to lift-up and launch other people’s dreams. Families want to do this lifting up together, as a group; they want events that are joy-filled and fun. The Alliance’s Turkey Trot is a fantastic example of this kind of service opportunity. Localism–making a difference where one is planted–is cool!

Greenwich families want hands-on opportunities to give back to lower and middle-class families who reside steps away from the Commuters’ Lot “Arch Street Farmer’s Market;” behind Cinterella near the Town Dump; behind McDonald’s in Riverside; in Wilber Peck. They just don’t know how to make this connection. They also are unsure of how to serve with younger kids in tow.

The Greenwich Alliance for Education is a role model of an agency when it comes to connecting your family to families and children whose stories and journeys they know intimately about.

Do you want to empower a teen who is the first to go to college in his family? Do you tire of spending $100 on junk at CVS for stocking stuffers that are discarded in 1.5 hours and instead crave to walk over to that child who lives in Wilber Peck who simply needs a few hundred bucks to get on the Internet–for an entire year? Wouldn’t it be great if you were the one that took away her fear of Monday, when, she would have to explain to her teacher that her working mother can’t drive her to-and-from the Library to print out her homework–that they didn’t have enough money in their budget to buy a new ink cartridge this month…

The Greenwich Alliance for Education is one of those change agents that quietly does not wait to reach out and TROT. To me, it is the strongest grass roots organization in Greenwich that, one-person-at-a-time, is doing what needs to be done to close the achievement gap.

The “Alliance” summons every participant’s strengths, they do not demean nor talk-down to their participants. They do not call the children they serve “clients” but allies and friends. Attend the graduation ceremony of the Alliance’s awesome AVID graduation—where Greenwich’s lower income students are mentored to go to college at a 100% success rate and you know you have met a non-profit that is a star among stars. This is truly five star status.

And, why? Because they live here. Because they want to be in relationship with those they are lifting up. They do not go back home to Darien and Rye when their “day of service” is over.

Haughtiness has no place in love.  When a big social service agency, one that is funded at the tune of 9.2 million dollars, claims they can not afford to reach out to the neediest pre-readers in town, this is bureaucracy re-stuffing itself, over and over and over again. As indigestion sets in and 9.2 million dollars is still not enough for one show in town, the Alliance buys and refurbishes a giant bus and runs a bookmobile with volunteers and a few gas fill-ups. Yes, sometimes just a handle of parents in Greenwich can accomplish more than a mammoth without vision.

The Greenwich Alliance for Education is nimble, inclusive and smart about the things that block and prevent those with less. They realize folks who feel like they live-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks need to be treated with dignity and have a sense of community as well as a chance to give back! When I spoke to them a year ago, they were the only agency in town that knew there is a serious Digital Divide in Greenwich. It didn’t take them spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure this out. They knew this because they know real-life families, all the siblings of these same families; they listen to them and mentor them…eye to eye, across their kitchen tables, over a café mocha at the coziest Starbucks in town, the one in Cos Cob! Their volunteers love going to Target and sending their mentees and graduates of the AVID program care packages earmarked for Villa Nova, UConn, St. Lawrence University. Join other moms and dads who are reaching out to kids growing up in Wilbur Peck, helping to keep them on the path to graduating from college. The Alliance’s mentors make sure to give their mentees extra TLC during their last two years of college, the hardest and “final stretch” for individuals hailing from low income families.

If you want to close the Digital Divide in Greenwich start training to run the Alliance’s Turkey Trot next year! Call Julie at the Alliance and donate the equivalent cost of a new pair of UGGS so the child in your community–the one that–before you–may have felt disconnected in one of the richest Towns in America, now feels plugged in and cherished.

Because waiting for icebergs to stop their self-congratulating, to cut their fat and give .05% of their budget from this year’s fiscal budget–not, possibly, next year’s budget–is not your style. You know, if your teen was without her i-pad for an hour, your household would be in a tailspin! Kids without a fair shot in Greenwich doesn’t sit right with you.

Did you know, we have a bookmobile in town that visits the neediest pre-readers? It, too, is funded by average moms and dads who decided one day, we aren’t going to wait around, any longer, for an agency to reach out to fire up our kids with a love of reading. Stories, storytelling and adults who model a love of literacy isn’t dependent upon individuals with ginormous salaries deciding to leave their desks for a few hours a week.

Give to the Greenwich Alliance for Education, give to trotting, give to folks who cheerfully and skillfully know how to surmount–with finesse and high expectations–our Town’s Digital Divide, our Town’s achievement gap, our Town’s potentially stubborn second generational poverty.

Once you trot a few miles with these folks, you’ll realize the brilliance of keeping solutions in the hands of locals.
Jodi Weisz, MLIS

Greenwich

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