When Children Succeed, The Region Will Succeed

Children classroom

Throughout the past 20 years, the Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative (BCAPI) has been working to ensure every child has an equal opportunity for success. This work plays a vital role in Envision Saint John: The Regional Growth Agency’s mandate to grow the region’s population and pave the road for a growing skilled workforce in the Saint John region.

Working with employers, Envision Saint John has heard time and time again that finding talent is a universal challenge for the region. And it is the outcomes from initiatives like BCAPI’s When Children Succeed program that will reduce the lack of talent challenge moving forward. It is an important step towards growing the working population for the Saint John region and province of New Brunswick.

“As the regional growth agency, we recognize that a complex strategy is required to grow the working population,” explained Paulette Hicks, CEO of Envision Saint John: The Regional Growth Agency. “Envision Saint John is a catalyst in ensuring we are graduating, upskilling, and attracting the skills and expertise to provide the labour force that the global economy demands.”

When BCAPI’s journey began, their research revealed that although there were lots of job opportunities, the poverty rate in Saint John was not budging.

“It boiled down to the fact that the jobs weren’t enough, and that people were stuck in poverty because of other factors that were more fundamental,” explained Monica Chaperlin, BCAPI coordinator.

BCAPI began evaluating solutions that would ensure people were equipped to succeed in everyday life.

“That’s really what our work had to do, in order to change the opportunities for people to move forward in their lives,” Monica said.

This realization and focus did not come as an ‘ah-ha’ moment, but rather incrementally throughout their work.

When Children Succeed started as a pilot project within Prince Charles School and showcased a significant increase in student achievement. Standardized tests by Grade 7 jumped by 106 % in writing and 121% in reading, between 2006 to 2011. The high school graduation rate for Prince Charles School neighbourhood students has also risen from 41 %in 2011 to 75 % 2017.

Research shows that the older you get, the more difficult it is to change, and BCAPI knew their greatest opportunity was to be part of those early years, when children learn the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy.

Trial, error, and research have led to the success that is driving results for the Saint John region today.

Working with the Anglophone South School District to implement one-on-one educational opportunities for children who are economically and socially disadvantaged, with a particular focus on priority neighborhoods, the program is built on targeted services and supports from early childhood to early literacy, to enriching children’s education from kindergarten through to grade eight, and then to focusing on at-risk youth in high school.

“This focused approach works to ensure all children and youth have the right opportunities to graduate and move forward into all the things that we have to do in adulthood,” Monica said.

According to the Education Re-Design Lab at Harvard Graduate School of Education, any child not reading at a grade level by the end of grade three is six times less likely to graduate high school. And those who do not graduate high school are two and a half times more likely to experience unemployment.

But When Children Succeed is flipping the script to showcase real outcomes and create lasting impact.

Impact that is helping the Saint John region grow by implementing the required tools to ensure a strong future workforce.

When Children Succeed is creating a foundation for the transformational change required for our region’s future prosperity,” explained Paulette. “Not only will we see the results, but we will feel them within the quality of our talent pool.”

Impact that the province of New Brunswick views as instrumental for a sustainable workforce – with a recent investment of $3 million for the initiative. The funding will support the program’s continued rollout and development of resources for the next two years.

As results are delivered, When Children Succeed can easily be ported to similar schools province wide.

“There’s no one program or system that can change things,” Monica said.

“Change doesn’t come easily, but you can change the trajectory for children who face so many barriers to learning. They just need a little more help and a little more thought, and you just can’t keep doing things the same way and expect them to get better. You really have to intervene in targeted ways.”

Monica explained how this type of lasting change is too big of a job for any one organization or even any one sector – it’s about partnerships and collaboration.

“We’re all learning together each step of the way,” she said. “That’s what makes the whole thing seem to work because we’re all starting to get it. Having business, government, and the broader community leadership involved in this work has been very impactful, and it’s what is helping to move the needle.”

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