Improving Outcomes and Addressing the Opportunity Gap

By Julie Faryniarz

An interesting thing happened these last few months with my family all at home. We had a unique opportunity to “go back in time” and eat dinners together every night. To be honest, dinners together during my children’s high school years were maybe a once a week occurrence with all of the sports activities, my husband’s business dinners, and my time spent at evening school board meetings. In comparison, family dinner during this time of COVID quarantine has been very different. Everything stopped, and being all together at home, in one space at one time, was the outcome. Our dinner conversations have been filled with passion, conflict, misunderstandings, compromise, tears, frustration, and possibly every other emotion one can feel and try to express. Recently, when we discussed the horrific death of George Floyd and the protests surrounding the social injustices endured by our fellow citizens of color, each of my kids mentioned social action websites that inspired them to donate, follow, and repost. I asked them to explain the different groups and how, specifically, the work they were doing ignited and inspired my kids to take action. Each replied with an informed and thoughtful response about the impressive objectives of the organizations. They suggested that I donate to one of the groups they supported. To that I replied, “I will increase my personal donation to the Greenwich Alliance for Education,” explaining that the Alliance has been working locally to eliminate inequality and injustice since 2006. My kids all nodded and agreed with my conclusion, as they have been living my work with me for more than eleven years.

As we as a community reflect on the magnitude of the work involved in addressing the various causes and symptoms of inequality in our society, I am more committed than ever to the wide array of Alliance programs and initiatives

that fundamentally seek to insure opportunity and access in education.

The Greenwich Alliance does all of this and more:

• Through Scholarships, we award college persistence and reduce student debt.

• Through Mentoring, we offer AVID college students information and encouragement to help them confidently conquer the challenges that await them as they earn their college degree.

• Through Good Money Habits, we teach and develop life-long financial literacy skills.

• Through Tuning In To Music, we provide access and opportunity in the arts by funding music lessons for students eligible for free or reduced price lunch.

• Through Reaching Out Grants, we fund AVID events, artists, mental health supports and strategies, mindfulness training, tutoring, family engagement, educator professional learning, science enrichment, after-school and summer enrichment, Innovation Lab, makerspaces, virtual reality technology and training, early literacy initiatives, and more.

• Through Community Partnerships, we build connections, design solutions, and address the educational needs of our youngest learners to our college graduates.

At the Alliance, we invest in and support our most vulnerable and underrepresented students and help them achieve college and career success. We empower students and improve educational outcomes by addressing the opportunity and wealth gaps that exist here in Greenwich, and across our country.

Now more than ever, I am reinvigorated both by what the Alliance currently does and by our plans to do even more. I look forward to connecting with more students, speaking with more educators, growing our community and corporate partnerships, and of course, pausing to reflect and engage in the relevant, necessary, and sometimes uncomfortable, conversations around social injustices and inequities.

As we move into summer, we at the Alliance also want to recognize the hard work of Dr. Toni Jones, Greenwich Public School administrators and teachers, and the parents who came together in the most challenging of circumstances to reinvent learning at home. We know these last few months required creativity, empathy, patience, collaboration, and many hours of thoughtful ingenuity. Stay well and safe!

Julie Faryniarz has been the Executive Director of the Greenwich Alliance for Education for 11 years. She is the mother of three GHS graduates and will be celebrating her 30th wedding anniversary this summer. Recently, Julie was honored by the YWCA as a Woman Who Inspires.

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