By Jan Bennett
“ONE by ONE” in Jacksonville, FL – an Education Initiative
This week’s School Spotlight is featuring Jacksonville’s ‘ONE by ONE’ education campaign that is working to combat the alarming statistics on students (one in three) not graduating high school in four years. This campaign has taken an unusual approach in getting the word out to the community, and it is making people take notice.
Throughout the United States, communities are continuing to feel the strangling effects of the tightening of purse strings. It seems schools are often first in line in the plan of attack when cutting away the “fat” of budgetary matters, leaving an emaciated educational system that barely has the resources to survive, much less thrive. This jeopardizes the future of our children, families and cities. One campaign in Jacksonville, Florida, has decided there has been enough inaction and is creating a movement to implement change, ONE by ONE.
According to ONE by ONE’s Website, “high school students from low-income families are six times more likely to drop out than students from higher income families.” And the Alliance for Excellent Education gives some sobering statistics related to the dropout rate. Reducing the dropout rate in Jacksonville by just half is estimated to produce an additional $36 million in spending, and “result in an estimated $13 million in additional earnings each year for those students.” ONE by ONE adds that “this would amount to about 400 new jobs in the community, with an increase in the gross regional product of $65 million.” That’s some trade off. And it would certainly be a great deficit-cutting tool for creating economic improvement and growth.
However, cuts to education continue during a time when our children are in desperate need of an education system that prepares them for serious competition in a ever-widening global economy. Enter the “Jacksonville Public Education Fund.” JPEF’s education initiative, ONE by ONE - specifically funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of the American Graduate Initiative – is looking to educate not just students, but the community, on the impact that will be felt if students continue to struggle in finishing school. They are working toward a goal of starting a meaningful conversation leading to motivate change in schools and the community. They want to increase civic investment in education. (Click here to find out more about the program.)
On its site, ONE by ONE states: “The vision produced through the process will serve as a road map for the [Jacksonville] community to begin turning their aspirations into reality.” For them, this reality includes becoming a coordinator between the public and public officials, holding all of them to account because, as they say, “We are all responsible for our children’s future.”
In creating an open dialogue for the community, ONE by ONE has made the above statement perfectly clear. They are making it known that everyone has a stake in the education of children, not just those with children in the school system. Even area business leaders are becoming active in voicing a concern. They understand the symbiotic nature of education and economy. According to ONE by ONE, Jacksonville needs to improve its education system in order to thrive economically. When the economy begins to recover, its city must be poised to capture that growth. They understand that it is not only the education system - but the community’s perception of it – that can hold them back if it does not improve.
One way the program is making the community’s dropout epidemic known is through partnering with two of its local resources: Jacksonville’s public radio station, WJCT, and with the help of a local photographer, Ingrid Damiani. Together, they have produced a multimedia experience explaining just what the campaign is doing. Damiani’s ONE in THREE: Let’s Solve Our Dropout Crisis is photography exhibition designed to work with and spark an interest in the community engagement campaign: ONE by ONE: Transforming Our Future Together.
Damiani tells the stories of 20 current and former Jacksonville students through her captivating ONE in THREE series that is on display at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Regarding Diamani’s exhibit, “The students’ stories demonstrate the power of an engaged community that works hand-in-hand with the school district to improve student success. Many of the students overcame great obstacles to succeed—and they will inspire the community to do the same.” The local public station, WJCT, enhances Damiani’s work with the addition of audio and video. This multimedia platform promotes a better understanding of the stories being explored. To see more of Damiani’s work from her ONE in THREE photography series, click here. Because the exhibits aim is to get viewers involved with the campaign, it will travel around 16 Jacksonville neighborhoods, providing an opportunity for many to learn about these stories, why they are important, and how they relate to the community.
The best way to arm yourself against ignorance and fear is knowledge, and the ONE by ONE Program in Jacksonville, Florida, is doing just that. The community is working together to take control of its future, literally. This campaign is making it known that educational wellness in Jacksonville impacts everyone, not just families. This is certainly a great step in turning the attitude of education from “Not my job” to “It takes a village.” Having this understanding throughout the community makes the problem three-dimensional, and it becomes easier for all to see and focus on finding a solution.
While the diminished graduation rate might not be as severe in all cities, educational wellness is something that affects us all. This town is working to create a change through what works for its people and children. They are getting to the heart of the problem through educating the public that, first, there is a big problem; and second, gathering community concerns to put together a clearly defined path of attack. This is what is working for them, we want to hear what your community is doing to combat educational concerns. Or, if you have become inspired by their story, we would love to hear that, too.