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St. Croix Foundation Hosts KIDS COUNT USVI Summit: ‘We Are the System and the Solution

Cover art for the Virgin Islands’ 2023 Kids Count report illustrates the “clarion call” for attention to the territory’s children and youth. (Photo by David Berg of Blackwood Imaging)

St. Croix Foundation for Community Development’s (SCF) KIDS COUNT USVI Team hosted its first KIDS COUNT USVI Summit, April 16-17, on St. Croix at The Grange Event Center near Anna’s Hope.

Entitled “Answering the Call, We are the System and the Solution,” the event was held in partnership with the Office of the Governor, and it convened a carefully curated cohort of key stakeholders from the public, private and civic sectors who directly impact KIDS COUNT USVI.  Despite the dismal trends reported in the 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book, the Foundation’s KIDS COUNT team believes that the size of the territory, and even our status, may represent untapped opportunities to do things differently: to make radical and rapid strides in the area of child well-being.

The ultimate goal of the Summit was to fulfill the KIDS COUNT USVI team’s pledge to activate the data published in the annual Data Book by creating a safe space for key stakeholders to cultivate relationships across sectors and, in turn, co-create new, cohesive systems of support for our territory’s children.

The summit was facilitated by internationally renowned systems-change expert and founder of ‘The Outside’ Tuesday Rivera. She has led numerous communities through the deliberative and collaborative process of co-designing new ways of “doing” and “being,” which lead to radical systems change.  A session was also led by Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen, formerly of Grantmakers for Education and author of “The Future of Smart,” who offered a compelling perspective on the American educational system, calling for a human-centered approach that is adaptive to children’s needs and assets as social beings and is less linear and mechanistic than traditional methods.

From start to finish, the St. Croix Foundation’s KIDS COUNT team sought to demonstrate to summit participants that change doesn’t have to be legislated by policy. In truth, communities can spur radical system change through a single collective decision – made by just a few – to change their behavior. The summit also highlighted the issue of Spirituality as a critical component of child well-being with an inspirational “Grounding Ceremony” from Tahirah AbuBakr, a member of the St. Croix Council of Elders who challenged attendees to remember the central role that elders have played in ancestral societies relative to transferring wisdom, spirituality and historical cultural values to youth.

Laurence Blake, the KIDS COUNT USVI data researcher and designer said, “The summit ignited hope and purpose within our team. Witnessing stakeholders unite to address child well-being challenges was inspiring.

The 2024 KIDS COUNT USVI Summit intentionally made space for the collaboration necessary for systems change. Linda Stamper-Keularts, director of Advancement at Good Hope Country Day School, spoke on the outcomes of the Summit, stating, “Attending the KIDS COUNT Summit was an enlightening experience that truly underscored the importance of collaborative action in tackling the multifaceted challenges faced by our youth.  The Summit brought together a diverse range of nonprofit organizations and GVI agencies from various sectors, fostering rich discussions, new relationships, and innovative solutions to address issues confronting our youth. Good Hope Country Day School is feeling empowered and motivated to continue to advocate for the well-being of our youth.”

In her framing remarks at the start of the Summit, Foundation CEO James outlined what she hoped attendees would walk away from the gathering having learned: That Everything is Connected to Everything is Connected to Everything!

An electronic copy of the 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book is available at https://stxfoundation.info/2023KIDSCOUNTUSVIDataBook

St. Croix Foundation CEO James said, “What the Foundation has come to learn, is that change, real sustained change, isn’t often an outgrowth of a comprehensive, well-framed strategic plan or policy agenda, but in some ways (in fact, in many ways), it’s electrified, very simply, by people fused in courageously cultivated relationships committed to solving big problems — not alone, not siloed, not solo, but together! Cultivating those relationships is the real challenge and an important, often undervalued, under-prioritized factor in systems change.”

An electronic copy of the 2023 KIDS COUNT USVI Data Book is available at https://stxfoundation.info/2023KIDSCOUNTUSVIDataBook.  year-round programming, including KIDS COUNT USVI.

For more information about KIDS COUNT USVI or any resources at the 2024 KIDS COUNT Summit, please visit https://www.stxfoundation.org/kids-count-usvi/. Questions about KIDS COUNT USVI should be directed to President Deanna James of St. Croix Foundation at 773-9898 or DJames@stxfoundation.org

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