Every Child, Every Step, from Cradle to Career

It's been said that all a child needs to succeed is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them.

When it comes to our kids, Sioux Falls does more than help, hope, and believe. We're dedicated to making sure all children succeed, from cradle to career.

The path to success starts with two outstanding healthcare systems that provide families with support and special services from an infant's first breath. It leads on to dozens of nonprofit, faith-based, and public preschool programs that prepare kids to start school kindergarten-ready.

Whether your child has special needs or special talents, there's an incredible range of educational opportunities available in private schools and public classrooms to meet those needs.

Take our public school system. In the primary grades, your child can opt into a total-immersion Spanish language program, an elementary school with a focus on the arts, or a Challenge Center for high-ability students. Alternately, your family might choose to join the self-paced learning team at All City Elementary, where parents, teachers, and students collaborate to maximize each child's academic potential.

Choice is the key to public middle schools as well. Do you prefer a neighborhood location? There are five middle schools from which to choose. All have excellent academic, music, and athletic programs. In addition to traditional classrooms supplemented by special education and gifted and talented programs, you'll find there's a Challenge Center option for high performing middle-schoolers.

Our public high schools boast dozens of advanced placement classes for the college-bound. Students with a specific career in mind have alternatives too — they can take classes at the Career and Technical Education Academy or participate in project-based learning at New Technology High School.

If there's a public school system more driven to create opportunities for success, we haven't seen it.

Now, we've found another way to invest in our kids. It's called Sioux Falls Thrive — a cradle to career initiative backed by a unique partnership among our community's government, business, nonprofit and faith sectors.

Studies show that what a child experiences outside of school is just as important, if not more, than what happens inside the classroom. It's tough for kids whose parents struggle to meet their families' basic needs to come to school ready to learn. Thrive's job is to identify the obstacles such families face and figure out a way to eliminate them, not by adding new programs but by realigning existing resources to create effective service systems.

The initiative would be daunting in a less progressive community, but Sioux Falls is building on a long tradition of public-private collaboration, its perennial "can-do" spirit, and a fresh approach to complex problem solving called collective impact.

This is how it works. Thrive's governing board has a strategy council — a group of representatives from more than a dozen public and private entities that provide significant financial support and services to the community. Thrive's council is responsible for identifying situations in the ecosystem that have a negative impact on student success and recommending research studies to the governing board.

When the board targets a priority, Thrive forms a cross-sector action team and provides it with facilitation services, training, and support from Augustana University Research Institute. The action teams use a continuous quality management tool box to realign programs and services and performance indicators to monitor the effect changes they make have on student outcomes.

Thrive launched a Housing Action Team in 2017 and expects to find as many as a dozen more teams as its cradle to career research and action capacity expands. Each team will have a role to play in promoting parent and family engagement, health and wellness, and college and career readiness.

It's a big project, but there's nothing more important Sioux Falls can do than to invest in the success of our kids — every child, every step, from cradle to career.

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