Yesterday, All Our Kin’s executive director Jessica Sager traveled to New York City to share the story of All Our Kin’s journey- from a big idea shot down time and again, to an ever-expanding organization touching the lives of hundreds of providers and thousands of children- with middle and high school students at her alma mater, The Brearley School.
Jessica was there to motivate and inspire the young women in her presence as the keynote speaker and 2012 recipient of the Francis Riker Davis Award. This award is given annually to “a [Brearley] alumna who has shown outstanding community leadership, displaying an exceptional spirit of civic responsibility in her professional career or volunteer pursuits.” Congratulations to Jessica!
Lately, All Our Kin has been intently focused on expanding our services to new regions in Connecticut and improving our programs in New Haven. Jessica’s words to the young Brearley students about how All Our Kin began are an important reminder of how far we’ve come, not just as an organization, but as a community, and of the challenges that remain:
“It was the late 1990s, when scientists were just beginning to understand that a baby’s brain isn’t fully developed at birth, and that, as the brain grows, the child’s early experiences, the good and the bad, are literally hard-wired into the brain. Not just what they learned…But also how they feel. Social and emotional development, the ability to control your feelings and behaviors, to delay gratification, to set goals and strive for them—all critical to future success in life, all profoundly affected by what happens before you turn three….
…The more I read, the more I realized that most children were not getting the learning experiences they needed. I started to try to make All Our Kin a reality. I teamed up with my friend Janna Wagner, who had just gotten her master’s degree in education from Harvard…. It was not easy. Again and again, funders turned us down. Slowly, I came to realize why.
And I’m just going to tell you. In the twenty-first century, in America, we still devalue women, especially poor women. And we devalue the work of caring for children, because child care has traditionally been women’s work. Almost no one believed in the women I wanted to work with. Almost no one thought they could be high-quality teachers of young children…
But the women that came to work with us—they were extraordinary. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors, people who loved children, who wanted to make better lives for themselves, and most importantly, wanted to give their children the tools to succeed. They were intelligent, creative, patient, insightful. They were born teachers. And together, they were a community of strong women with enough energy to power the Hoover Dam.
All Our Kin made it to the second year, and started to grow. And grow…
Today, All Our Kin succeeds for one reason: the community of strong women who spend each day helping children grow and learn. These women are so smart, so passionate, so dedicated, that it’s an honor to work with them.
The community of women that I work with today looks very different from the community of women here at Brearley, but if you come to visit All Our Kin one day, you will recognize, I think, their fire, their commitment and their drive.”