What We’ve Learned: Children’s Well-Being and Education

Throughout September 2020, our staff members are highlighting different areas of the community where the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund can make an impact. 

By Cynthia Wehrenberg 
Youth Impact Coordinator 

Society has always placed importance on raising children to become thriving adults who, in turn, build a better world for future generations.  

One of the primary ways this has been done is through education, long thought of as “the great equalizer”: If schools deliver the same high standard of academic preparation to all children, new generations will have the knowledge and skills to build a better society.

There’s just one problem: Research shows that schools don’t work this way for all children. An array of factors inside and outside the school walls contribute to a child’s capacity to focus and learn in the classroom. That’s why the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque’s youth-serving initiatives aim to address children’s growth, development and academic achievement in a holistic way, helping them become the thriving adults we want them to be. 

For example, there is growing awareness around how adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, affect a child's safety and overall feeling of security, which impact their ability to focus and learn. ACEs constitute an array of traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect and violence, that can have lifelong implications.  

With this understanding, the Community Foundation’s Every Child Reads initiative formed the Trauma Informed Alliance in response to community interest in learning more about the prevalence and impact of trauma on children.  

Every Child Reads focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation: reading proficiency by the end of third grade. But the parents, educators and other community leaders who make up the Every Child Reads partner network also realize that helping more children read at grade level also involves addressing factors like access to brain health services or safe neighborhoods — factors that impact whether a child is in a mindset conducive to learning. 

That’s where the Alliance comes in. It is focused on building awareness and promoting trauma-informed practices in the community to help remove barriers and obstacles that are impacting a child’s ability to learn. It also is helping adults understand how they can provide those rich, positive experiences children need early in life to establish a strong foundation for learning and growth. Every Child Reads collaborated with Community Partnerships for Protecting Children and the United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States to launch the group, and ongoing conversations include representatives from school districts, brain health service providers, nonprofits, police departments, human services and philanthropy.   

The future depends on ensuring that all children can succeed in school and life, which makes initiatives like Every Child Reads and the Trauma Informed Alliance essential to the Community Foundation’s mission of building a region where everyone can thrive. One way to support the well-being of our children is with a gift to the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund, which helps address whatever needs our community might face in the future.  

Just as we couldn’t have predicted generations ago the research we draw on today to understand how children learn best, we can’t predict what issues will arise tomorrow. With the Forever Fund, though, we will be prepared to react and find solutions that benefit the Dubuque region for generations to come. 

Read more about how the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund can strengthen our region for the future:  

Make your gift today: dbqfoundation.org/forever