Most, if not all of us, find cause to celebrate or honor major milestones in our lives—births and birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, etc. We find ways to come together and to honor where we've been and where we're going. Many times, we've come together physically to do so, although COVID-19 has put a stop or slowed down in-person gatherings. So instead, we've adapted and joined together on virtual platforms. 

Regardless of the circumstances, we find ways to convene and celebrate together. 

However, I wonder if we sometimes lose sight of what's next? Don't get me wrong; we must take time to share and celebrate our accomplishments. We lose opportunities to build confidence, feel successful, honor each other and our work if we don't. But I also think we miss the ability to create change if we don't think about what's next. 

For example, the word commencement is also used to describe graduation. Personally, I think it's a better word. Graduation gives the impression that an event or time period is concluding. It's technically accurate, but isn't commencement a better way to frame the opportunities on the horizon? While we celebrate the present, can we look forward to working hard in the future to create a better community and a better world? 

When I graduated with my master's degree this spring, it was with a sense of accomplishment (I did it!), relief (Thank goodness I'm done), and sadness (I love school and learning, and I know I'll miss it). But a month after, I "commenced" an incredible opportunity to work with The Patterson Foundation (TPF). It's given me the ability to use my education and experiences while also teaching me so much about philanthropy, innovative and creative thinking, creating a stronger community, and giving back. 

My point is that when we celebrate milestones, we cheer our past successes and recognize that we can do even more. Whether it's a birthday, an anniversary, or a new life created, we can reflect and relish on our achievements while creatively thinking about the future as well. 

All this to say that the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) has had its fair share of milestones recently. 

For example…

  • Mind in the Making, a program that teaches individuals about brain development and essential life skills, celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year. SCGLR is one of the program's strongest supporters and has trained thousands of individuals to better recognize challenges, take different perspectives, think creatively, and communicate better.

  • Reach Out and Read connects and partners with pediatricians and clinics to share important information for parents about encouraging an early love for reading in their children while also encouraging brain development. 

In the Suncoast region, children receive a book at each clinic visit, and SCGLR mails another free book if parents fill out a postcard. In September, SCGLR marked the 5,000th mailed book sent, an incredible accomplishment for clinics, pediatricians, and parents who all play a critical role in encouraging reading at a young age. We celebrated by sending Rita Story with a gift basket and balloons to each of three lucky Reach Out and Read families.

  • THIS BOOK IS COOL!, a new summer reading program, began in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 and reached more than 5,000 children who read more than 94,000 books! You can read more about THIS BOOK IS COOL! in this blog post, but take a pause and think about the beauty of 5,000 children reading 94,000 books. As an avid reader myself, it almost brings me to tears thinking how these children will connect with reading, learn something new, and see themselves reflected in the characters. 

So SCGLR knows a thing or two about milestones. And it's celebrating them by honoring the incredible teams and people who made them happen.

But as I've alluded to before, we're not finished. We're thrilled that a new program within SCGLR is in the works. Stronger Me, Stronger We combines aspects of all of the wonderful programs above (plus The Power of Presence) in short, 1-hour guided learning segments with experienced and knowledgeable facilitators and community members passionate about improving themselves and helping children succeed. SCGLR hopes that you'll leave each one with an enhanced understanding of specific topic areas (the power of being present, child and brain development, life skills, lessons, and activities for school-aged children) and stronger bonds with people in the community. 

SCGLR's aspiration is that these bonds, developed through connecting, learning, and sharing in different sessions and modules, will evolve and strengthen the Suncoast community so that... 

  • 100% of children will be reading on grade-level by the end of 3rd grade
  • 100% of families support their children in becoming avid readers
  • and 100% of people feel more connected to our community during good times and bad 
And when that day comes, it'll sure be a milestone worth celebrating. 

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