Chris Geden, Community Outreach Director, Children Education Alliance of Missouri
I go to a lot of meetings in the evening that occur when most families are in a rush to complete homework,feed hungry kids, take baths, and get to bed at a decent time. Knowing how busy families are, I am always pleasantly surprised when so many show up at neighborhood meetings, Weed and Seed meetings andsafety meetings. It reminds me that everyone, even the busiest people just want the very best for their communities. The crowds are often a refreshing mixture of long time residents, new to the neighborhoodyoung people, law enforcement and an elected official to round out the diverse group.
I often go to these meetings to share with the community what the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri is and how we can support their search for a high quality school. Unfortanately there are so many meetings that sometimes, I have to present and rush off to the next meeting before I have the opportunity to really engage in meaningful dialogue with attendees. However, there are other times whenIam able to stay for the entire meeting. This allows me to end my night with some one on one discussionswith residents, local leaders and any other presenters. I find that this is a great way to network andconnect with people and keeps me engaged an energized by reminding me, through these families’ storieswhy what CEAM does is so important.
Last night I was at one such meeting and was one of the first organizations to present. I finished my presentation and a young man pulled me aside as the meeting continued and shared with me that hewas on the board of a new charter school in the area and invited me to come visitThis is the exact kindof connection that education reformers in Missouri need to be engaging in on a more regular basis. As I finished my conversation with him, I went back into the meeting and listened to a community problemsolve together with the help of the alderman and several other city officials they discussed and debatedcrime and how to combat it together As I listened and learned I realized there are people who want to seepositive change and are willing to let their voice be heard, but aren’t sure where to go and how to expresstheir concerns and solutions. Most neighborhoods have some kind of group some are very informal someare more organized, but all are desperate to improve their neighborhoods. If you want to see change onyour street, your neighborhood, and your city please just check out a meeting you’ll be surprised what youcan learn. Oh, and if you see me there, please say “hi” and take a few seconds to listen to what I have tosay, CEAM just might be able to help you, your family and your neighborhood.