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Change the Odds for Children, Youth, and Families

March 17, 2015

Today’s blog is part of AmeriCorps Alums’ REALTalk series on race, equity, and AmeriCorps alumni as leaders. 

When faced with social, economic, and educational inequities, could you beat the odds? Leading advocates of children, youth, and families are working to change those odds instead.

Yesterday, AmeriCorps Alums hosted an online discussion guided by three alumni leaders supporting kids, youth, and families. Learn more about our panelists, discover key insights shared during our webinar, and explore recommended resources from our guest speakers. You can also click here to catch up on our whole conversation.

Dr. Dayna Long

Dr. Dayna Long

Key Insights

  • “Improving life and health outcomes starts from the first minute of life.”
  • “What is the biology of adversity? Being poor affects biology. How do we build resilience and support brain development early on in life?”
  • Improving health outcomes for low-income families also means supporting their social and emotional needs as well as their health needs. Click here to read how Dayna does this as the founder of FIND.

Kenneth Kirton

Kenneth Kirton

Key Insights

  • The best direct service providers to children, youth, and families are “people who understand the community.”
  • Resist the temptation to define young people by what they’ve done. Talk with them and learn where they’ve come from. “If we better understand what they’ve gone through, we can better help them.” Click here to learn about some of Kenneth’s work.
  • Gaining an understanding of what trauma is and how it affects children, youth, and families will increase your ability to support them.
Sondra Samuels

Sondra Samuels

Key Insights

  • “To create more opportunity we can’t focus on beating the odds. We have to change the odds.”
  • Don’t think of some students and families as “high-risk but as high-return.”
  • Encourage under-resourced families not to consider themselves as “social service recipients” but as “powerful change-makers” in partnership with you. Click here to learn how Sondra does this as the President and CEO of Northside Achievement Zone.

Guest Speaker Profiles & Recommended Resources

Dayna Long served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Peer Health Educator at the L.A. Free Clinic with Project Able (1994). She is now a pediatrician and the Director of Social Determinants of Health Initiatives at the Center of Community Health and Engagement at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. She is also the founder of FIND and the spokesperson for the Too Small to Fail: Talk, Read, Sing Initiative. Dayna encourages alumni to learn more on the Too Small to Fail blog and to read From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development by Jack Shonkoff.

Kenneth Kirton served with NYC Civic Corps as an AmeriCorps member (2010). He is now the Excelsior Service Fellow in the NYS Office of Children and Family Services. Kenneth recommended checking out stories, trainings, and other resources on the William Killibrew Foundation website.

Sondra Samuels served with the Justice Department’s Weed-n-Seed AmeriCorps program (1994). President and CEO of Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ). Sondra recommends adding Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough, Trying Hard is Not Good Enough by Mark Friedman, and Leadership on the Line by Martin Linsky and Ronald A. Heifetz to your bookshelf. You can also read Sondra’s blog, “Living as a Seed of Hope During and After AmeriCorps” that was originally published on the Huffington Post.

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