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Viewpoint: Embrace a fresh start -- again -- for our kids

The greatest thing about the start of a new school year is that it is a start! It's a new beginning; a clean slate. It's an exciting time because it provides an opportunity to build on what was accomplished in the previous school year.

Teachers have newly decorated bulletin boards and are eager to meet their students; to assist each student on their personal educational journey. Students fidget in anticipation of renewing friendships that sat dormant throughout the summer, meeting their new teachers and anticipating the amount of homework that each class will assign. A new school year is filled with promise and hope. Like a cool September breeze, you can feel the start of a new year and it's exciting!

The start of each school year is exciting for Every Hand Joined as it marks the community-wide initiative's anniversary. Five years ago, representatives from business, nonprofits, government, philanthropy and the school district came together with laser focus on one goal — helping every student possess all the tools necessary to compete in an ever-demanding 21st century economy.

It was agreed that for our children to be successful, it was going to take all of us working together; it was no longer the exclusive responsibility of the school district to prepare our children. We must identify goals, use data to measure progress and we must hold each other accountable.

The work of Every Hand Joined will only be successful if, as a community, we all work together. Every Hand Joined understands that like society, Red Wing is changing. Results will be slow as complex societal issues are being addressed. Patience will be required to let newly implemented processes take hold. But the work is critical — our children's futures depend upon it.

Five years of dedicated community involvement and hard work is paying dividends. The ongoing partnership of business, nonprofits, government, philanthropy and the school district is paying dividends. The dividends are sometimes subtle, but they are there. We know because the data says so.

• Data indicated many of the kindergarten students assessed as not being ready to learn when they began kindergarten were lacking social and emotional competencies, not academic skills:

Forty early care professionals received two days of training to help all their students build social and emotional skills and be better prepared to begin kindergarten.

• Results from the Search Institute's REACH assessment — a tool designed to measure student motivation and engagement — showed there were students who did not have a significant relationship with a caring adult beyond their parent(s):

Forty community members answered a call for mentors, received training and are now prepared to build relationships with middle and high school students this fall.

• Statistics show more of our students are pursuing post-secondary education following high school.

• Community and school populated committees are examining detailed data and working feverishly to identify strategies that will enhance literacy and math skills in all our students.

• Our community rallied together to ensure that food insecure children are not hungry in the summer by providing 15,000 lunches.

The new school year is filled with hope and promise for Every Hand Joined because, like the school, it provides the opportunity to continue to build on what was accomplished the previous year. It provides the continued promise to every child in Red Wing — this community-wide initiative will do everything it can to support you. And it provides the continued hope that as a community, we will join every hand to raise up the futures of all our children.

Remember, they're not just your kids or my kids, they're our kids!

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