As part of its Thrive by 25® commitment to investing in the well-being and success of young people ages 14 through 24, the Annie E. Casey Foundation is launching multiyear partnerships with organizations in Atlanta; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Baltimore. The three organizations lead comprehensive local efforts already underway to advance opportunities for young people to build skills and enter the workforce while developing their leadership and supporting their basic needs and relationships with family and mentors.

Providing both grants and expertise, Casey will work with the United Way of Greater Atlanta, Future Focused Education, an internship and work-based learning organization in Albuquerque; and with Baltimore’s Promise, a citywide collaborative composed of public, business, higher education, nonprofit, community and philanthropic leaders.

“The Foundation’s investments and technical assistance will expand capacity for these locally-driven efforts to build opportunities for large groups of youth and young adults across these communities and regions — all places where Casey has long invested with many partners and will continue to invest in the well-being of children and youth of all ages, families and communities,” said Tomi Hiers, vice president of the Foundation’s Center for Civic Sites and Community Change.

Baltimore, the Foundation’s hometown, and Atlanta, home to UPS, are the Foundation’s civic sites — communities where the Foundation has hometown ties and introduces innovative strategies that integrate the best programs and promising approaches for serving children and their families. New Mexico has been home to sites participating in JDAI®, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative®, Thriving Families for Safer Children and Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP)™, as well as the Albuquerque Justice for Youth Community Collaborative, which brings together more than 20 Albuquerque community-based organizations in a multi-year effort to ensure all young people are healthy and thriving.


United Way of Greater Atlanta: Creating Apprenticeships While Supporting Basic Needs

United Way of Greater Atlanta is committed to improving well-being for Atlanta’s children and young people, especially the nearly 500,000 children and youth in Greater Atlanta who lack access to the basic opportunities and resources they need to thrive.

Casey will support UWGA’s work through two main strategies:

  • CareerReady ATL, a new effort to demonstrate and expand apprenticeship opportunities in the Greater Atlanta region that focuses on young people of color who are furthest from opportunity and ensures they have multiple pathways to economic well-being and self-sufficiency; and
  • Grant funding and coordination with partners in the areas of academic support, pathways to careers, college planning, secure housing and basic needs

Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement (ARCHI) will further UWGA’s strategies by engaging young people, educators, employers and other partners.

To learn more about Thrive by 25, click here.

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The 2nd Annual Unite for Service Week is back!

Unite with MORE than 1,000 volunteers – all in just one week. When you join us for Unite for Service Week, you’re doing MORE for our communities.

From Monday, June 20th through Saturday, June 25th, you have the opportunity to work alongside other volunteers dedicated to making an impact on the lives of children, families and communities across Greater Atlanta. Every volunteer hour goes further than you think. And when those efforts are joined together, the impact is exponential.

Together, we can do more. Sign up today!

Check out the full list of virtual, onsite, and do-it-yourself volunteer opportunities below.  Register early for onsite opportunities as space is limited. 

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Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. At United Way of Greater Atlanta we are working to create opportunity for our community’s youth.

Meet Hannah and Hanna to understand how zip code can determine a child’s potential.

Like Hanna, today in Greater Atlanta, nearly 500,000 children live in communities lacking the basic opportunities and resources needed for them and their families to thrive.

June 9th, you can help change that.

Access to food, shelter and transportation is fundamental for children to learn and thrive. Families building financial literacy skills, access to job training and affordable healthcare creates economic stability and equitable growth in the most challenged communities.

#UnitedGivingDay is the opportunity for you to help children, families, and communities thrive. Join individuals, local communities, and corporations for 24 hours of giving to help children, families, and communities throughout Greater Atlanta in need.

In one day, YOU can make a difference. In one day, YOU can impact a lives.

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being mission is to ensure every child and family have equitable opportunities and access to resources to reach their full potential regardless of race or zip code. You can support #UnitedGivingDay by donating to United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Mission Fund, one of four Child Well-Being Investment Priority Areas, or to the 2-1-1, Contact Center, which connects individuals and families with the community-based resources they need to survive and thrive.

Join us now or on June 9 for Giving Day! You can even host your own fundraiser on social and help spread the word. And if you or someone you know needs help, visit here, or text your zip code and need to 898-211 or dial 211.

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United Way of Greater Atlanta is on a journey to improve the lives of children and families throughout the Greater Atlanta area. Nearly half a million children in our region live in communities with low or very low child well-being. Through our Child Well-Being Mission Fund, we invest in nonprofit partners that provide the supports necessary to strengthen the community. We recognize that it takes many different nonprofit partners to meet the complex needs of families. In January, we opened a request for proposals for our 2022 Child Well Being Mission Fund with grant awards being announced in May. For this round of investments, we focused on new nonprofit partners with targeted funding opportunities for small; grassroots; and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-led organizations. Overall, the median budget size for the organizations funded was $550,000. We also debuted organizational capacity building opportunities to provide partners with an opportunity to strengthen their organizational processes in order to undergird their programmatic efforts. Overall, 88% of the organizations funded have a budget size of under $2,000,000 and more than half of those receiving grant awards are BIPOC organizations.

“I am very impressed with the intentionality and thoughtfulness during this open request for proposals, and how amazing it is to be able to transition our investments in this way,” says Angel Maldonado, Co-Chair, Community Impact Committee. I know the team has been working extremely hard. I am really inspired that new organizations had the chance to receive funding, and I love the fact that even for those that didn’t get a chance to be funded in this round, the team will continue to work with them and continue to be a resource to them.”

United Way received a total of 122 applications to review across all investment portfolio areas. After a thorough review of each application, United Way is pleased to announce that 32 applicants were awarded grants ranging from $25,000 – $150,000 under the following strategies:

  • Strong Learners:
    • Build Reading Skills – 4 grants
    • Increase Healthcare Navigation – 1 grant
  • College and Career Ready:
    • Career Pathway – 2 grants
  • Economic Stability:
    • Secure Housing – 1 grant
    • Basic Needs and Equitable Access – 6 grants
    • Build Wealth – 6 grants
  • Brighter Future:
    • Strengthen Resident Leadership & Learning – 3 grants
    • Community Organizing & Civic Engagement – 3 grants
  • Capacity Building:
    • Organizational Capacity Building​ – 5 grants
    • Resiliency Planning Capacity Building – 1 grant


In this funding cycle, investments were also made through our strategic partnership with the Georgia Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) to address learning loss​ through our College and Career Ready investment portfolio area. Those grant awards are scheduled to be announced by the end of May,” says Mary Benton, Co-Chair Community Impact Committee. I participated as an independent reviewer for grant applications in this open request for proposals. It was very interesting to be able to see the application process and what United Way is asking of the organizations in order to gauge if they will be a good fit to help us reach our goals. I was very impressed with the process and was happy to do it.”

Putting our community’s children on an equitable path to fulfilling their potential requires us to work together toward a single, shared agenda. United Way knows that together, we can ensure this is an equitable, thriving community. That is the work of the Child Well-Being Mission Fund.  For more information on the grant awards for our open request for proposals or to donate to the child well-being mission fund, please click here.

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As seen through the United Way’s Child Well-Being Index, literacy rates in our region are unconscionably tied to zip code, race, and ethnicity – keeping equity and justice out of reach for so many. After two disrupted school years, the need has never been greater or the stakes higher.

Our brains are naturally wired to speak; they are not naturally wired to read and write. Scientific research has shown how children learn to read and how they should be taught and engaged from day one. But many caregivers and educators don’t know the science. As a result, millions of kids are being set up to fail.

Through the Strong Learners investment priority area, United Way has partnered with the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy as part of Literacy and Justice for All movement to eradicate illiteracy by investing in the Science of Reading from birth through 3rd grade. Literacy & Justice for All is an initiative to bring the science to children within a community by reaching children through the adults who serve them, prenatal through third grade.

Literacy and Justice for All partners are working to ensure child-facing adults have the knowledge, skills, and agency to implement:

  • Healthy brain development in pre-natal care
  • Language and literacy best practices in birth through age 5 care
  • The science of reading instruction in Kindergarten through 3rd grade

Initially activated in Marietta and now in Atlanta, the work is designed to serve as a role model for towns and communities throughout the region. Anyone can implement the practices through Cox Campus courses and resources – created for child-facing adults of children from prenatal care providers through third-grade reading teachers.

Some partners include Rollins Center for Language & Literacy, Marietta City Schools, KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, Learn4Life, Cobb Collaborative, Kennesaw State University, Quality Care for Children, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital and Grady Hospital.

Through these partnerships we continuously monitor, to determine what’s working for whom and under what conditions. Our collective goal is not to “beat the odds” for a small number of children, but to change the odds for every child. Through reading, we become the people we are meant to be – and every child deserves that opportunity so they can experience the equity and justice afforded through universal literacy.


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At United Way of Greater Atlanta, we are focused on the well-being of children, families and communities across Greater Atlanta. When you are able to say that children are doing well in the community, it’s a great indicator that those communities – in turn – are doing well.

Early childhood providers have played a critical role during the pandemic as essential workers – staying open when others closed to ensure children were in safe and quality early learning experience so their families could work. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated existing disparities in childcare. Years of underinvestment in childcare met with the challenges of the pandemic underscore the difficulty in accessing high-quality childcare.

That’s why our partnership with organizations like the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) are so important.

The early childhood development community plays a key role in driving United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Index both in terms of employment and economic mobility as a significant workforce in our state, but also for their role in supporting early language and literacy driving 3rd grade reading.

Given that early childhood education experiences are the first experiences that children have of education outside the home, curricula and values that empower children’s identity and values, and uphold their rights, are of paramount importance. And building leadership capacity within the early childhood profession is essential as the profession is forced to constantly shift due to changing educational, socio-political, health and economic demands.

The early childhood workforce consists of 40% Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), which for many childcare centers, is not representative of the population served. Educators of color tend to hold higher expectations of children of color and are less likely to misdiagnose them as special needs. We are supporting the work to not only increasing the diversity of the early childhood workforce in general, but more specifically early childhood leadership.

Leadership sets the tone and more early childhood leaders of color are needed to ensure that children are cared for in culturally responsive environments. In this challenging time for staffing for early childhood centers, having leadership that reflects the workforce is also important when it comes to recruitment and retention.

Recruitment and retention through knowledge and capacity building, promotion and succession planning will shape a cadre of professionals who can lead and advocate for more culturally responsive policies and practices that are reflective of the children and families they serve.

Learn more about United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI).


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For individuals, families, and communities across metro Atlanta, the impacts of COVID-19 have left us feeling stressed, anxious, and struggling to cope. When we think about the impacts COVID-19 on children and adolescents across our region, we are also grappling with the increased vulnerability this pandemic has placed on the mental well-being of our youngest population.

At the height of the pandemic, children endured shifts to their education, social isolation from family and friends, and postponement of meaningful activities: family vacations, sports and club activities, and other social activities. Children were forced to adjust and reimage how they celebrated milestones – we witnessed proms and graduations go virtual; we watched children and young adults shared their frustrations with the world on social media. We also witnessed how children responded to the racial and social injustices happening in our country, all while having to adhere to public health guidelines on social distancing.

In a recent issue brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 25% of high school students reported worsened emotional and cognitive health because of the pandemic. Over 20% of parents with children ages 5-12 reported similar conditions for their children. While there have been provisions to maintain, or in many cases increase mental health services for children through telehealth services, there was a significant decrease in access to mental health services, as many of these interventions were provided in school settings.

United Way of Greater Atlanta has been a long-standing champion of behavioral and mental health, and school-based mental health services. Over the last 7 years, our investments have supported behavioral health providers, such as Odyssey Family Counseling Center, to render services in communities across South Fulton and through school-based interventions in Fulton County Schools. Under United Way’s Brighter Future Strategy, Community Driven Innovation, our investments helped to create a space where organizations could shift their service delivery models to meet varying needs of the community in real time – and this proved critical during the height of the pandemic. Charles Releford, executive director at Odyssey reflects on the work his organization during this time:

The provision of mental health services went through a series of changes throughout COVID -19 and its variants.  Agencies like ours had to pivot quickly and get creative in delivering services.  Initially, all services went from the familiar face-to-face format to a much less familiar virtual format. It has been off putting, to say the least, for both provider and consumer.  Overlay that dynamic with the behavior profile of a middle school child with attention deficit disorder and you get a very different picture. We have settled on a hybrid model utilizing both approaches.  Clinicians have been very creative and exhibited an extreme amount of dedication.  

Nationally, we are amid the “great resignation” in all fields of endeavor. Many of our clinicians have felt overwhelmed with the serious increase in demand and the related uncertainty of the world at large and have left the profession.  Here at Odyssey, we try to stress “self-care” for our clinicians and have even instituted an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for those who may need it. The advent of COVID may force us as service providers to continue to evolve to meet the ever-increasing need.  The one-hour therapy session every other week may be over.  Shorter more frequent sessions are proving more impactful.  We will continue to listen to our community, students, and parents to offer the most comprehensive therapy and supportive services.

As we navigate a new world with COVID-19, we must collectively prioritize the mental well-being of our children. This comes with the recognition that we must also address the impacts racism and discrimination as part of this prioritization. We must also center the mental well-being of parents and caregivers. Through United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Mission Fund and the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund, we have an opportunity to address racial inequities, make investments in communities of greatest need and support organizations, like Odyssey Family Counseling Center, to use their voice to amplify the concerns of the community, increase access point for behavioral and mental health services, such as early mental health screenings and interventions, expand resiliency and wellness efforts, and other strategies that create positive connections for young people. Together, we can do more.

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By Katrina D. Mitchell, Chief Community Impact Officer – United Way of Greater Atlanta and Erica Fener Sitkoff, Ph.D., Executive Director – VOICES for Georgia’s Children

While much news these days focuses on COVID-19 — cases, hospitalizations, deaths, masks, vaccinations, and variants — other challenges, which existed well before the pandemic, are finally getting the attention they are due. This pandemic has forced a reckoning with Georgia’s long-standing systemic and logistical barriers to food, shelter, education, childcare and mental and physical health, to name a few. Consider these numbers:

Of the 2.5 million children in Georgia ages 0-18,

  • 377,000 are food insecure,
  • 420,000 did not have a dental check-up in the last 12 months, and
  • 78,000 students in 6th – 12th grade reported having seriously considered attempting suicide.

To be clear, however, the problem is not lack of attention and investment from government agencies, non-profit organizations, and the private sector.  Many of us have spent years analyzing these issues, developing and implementing programs based on evidence and data, and advocating for policy and practice changes that would help kids and their caregivers.  The problem is that we just weren’t close to being “finished” before the onslaught of the pandemic.

“Even though many of these challenges are not new, the pandemic has pushed more and more families into or precariously close to the brink; and we know that public and private systems need ideas, monies and effective communication to help our fellow Georgians through this trying era,” said Katina Asbell, Chair of the Public Policy Committee and a member of the UWGA Board of Directors.

Now here we are, going into 2022, and COVID remains pervasive.  What now?

In a lot of ways, we have surprised ourselves with our flexibility and resourcefulness.  School bus drivers delivered food, people accessed mental health care by phone, and while not necessarily elegant, people pretty much figured out how to use Zoom.

Additionally, many of us found ourselves in new or revitalized partnerships, most often with a shared urgency to help each other help families. Voices for Georgia’s Children and the United Way of Greater Atlanta is one such alliance. We have joined forces to advocate for a comprehensive policy agenda under the Gold Dome this legislative session and beyond.

This is not surprising, considering both organizations approach the work holistically – focusing on what we call “whole child policy.” We understand that a child does not live or learn in silos or sectors, and that decisions made in one area of a child’s life or development can influence outcomes in another.  For instance, it is now common knowledge that a child truly cannot learn when hungry or struggling with mental health, that isolation to keep kids safe from COVID-19 can also create barriers to getting proper dental care and necessary check-ups with pediatricians, and that a lack of childcare not only prevents children from learning what they need to be school-ready but can also make it hard for their parents to maintain employment. It is critical that Georgia’s policies and laws reflect such dynamics. United Way of Greater Atlanta’s 2022 Public Policy Agenda with its focus on improving child well-being by working together towards a single, shared agenda to put our community’s children on an equitable path to fulfilling their potential, paves the way.

“We have been great allies in the policy space for years,” says Asbell, “but now we are working even closer. The beauty of that is that we can each use our networks to dovetail advocacy on all those things that we both know need fixing.”

Click here to learn more about United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well Being Agenda.


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Milton J. Little, Jr., President and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday, we honored Martin Luther King, Jr. for his life of service to the Civil Rights Movement, his power to strengthen communities, address social problems, bridge barriers and move us closer to his vision of a beloved community. And while we honor his legacy the third Monday in January of every year, the following Tuesday each year marks another important day for our community – the National Day of Racial Healing.

Today, January 18, 2022, marks the sixth year of the National Day of Racial Healing – a day dedicated to healing from the effects of racism. It is a day to acknowledge the stains in our country’s history and bring ALL people together in their common humanity to take collective action and create a more just and equitable world.

At United Way of Greater Atlanta, our longstanding commitment to remove racial barriers deeply impacting communities in our region remains stronger than ever. Our mission is to engage and bring together people and resources to drive sustainable and equitable improvements in the well-being of children, families, and individuals in the community. Simply put, our work is grounded in equity for all and is core to our mission to improve Child Well-Being.

In July of 2020, we launched our United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund. The fund was created to address the racial disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and to build on the new momentum from 2020’s civil unrest to address racial inequities and to advance deep and widescale changes. This fund invests in structural solutions that address the root causes of racial inequity.

Across the Greater Atlanta community we have seen immense support for the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund. Donations to-date of $3.1M have enabled us to provide multi-year grants to 19 partners. We have also seen a widespread commitment to learning about racial equity and healing through our 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge. Through the challenge, we were able to engage more than 4,500 people across 36 states representing more than 1,200 organizations. Douglas, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties participated in the challenge with a variety of public sector partners such as school districts, county commissioners, corporate partners and Chambers of Commerce. Last year, Gwinnett County officially proclaimed the Tuesday after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day the National Day for Racial Healing in Gwinnett County. The breadth and depth of insights that have informed our work in racial equity could not have happened without the convening of a diverse and talented group of volunteers, advisory board members and thought leaders.

Healing is an integral part of the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund’s title. According to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, racial healing is a process we can undertake as individuals, in communities and across society as a whole. In healing, we recognize our common humanity, acknowledge the truth of past wrongs and build the authentic relationships capable of transforming communities and shifting our national discourse.

As we reinforce the mission of achieving the promise for a more equitable Greater Atlanta, to improve Child Well-Being, healing is top of mind. United Way of Greater Atlanta recently provided grant awards to 8 nonprofits who not only have a racial justice lens but are also focused on healing and restorative practices that are rooted in place and grounded in community. In order to have both thriving and resilient communities, we must respond and invest in solutions that transform the systems that have disrupted so many lives in Black and Brown communities. Through these grants, we are committed to learning alongside our partners to better understand the role “healing” plays in creating a brighter future for children, families and communities and inspiring collective action.

Examples of funded partners are as follows:

  1. Sistercare Alliance – SisterCARE Alliance is a network of professionals, mothers, sisters, entrepreneurs, activists, self-care advocates, and leaders who believe that protecting Black women and their well-being is fundamental to ensuring family and community.
  2. Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiatives(PAD)– is an initiative born out of the work and vision of Atlantans directly impacted by policing and incarceration and committed to a new approach to community safety and wellness.
  3. Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective – is a network of healers, health practitioners, and organizers in the U.S. Southeast, began using the term “healing justice” as a framework to identify how communities can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence.
  4. JustGeorgia Coalition – was formed in 2020 by the Georgia NAACP and the Southern Center for Human Rights to form a racial justice advocacy coalition following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

In honor of National Day of Racial Healing and beyond, we honor these organizations and their leaders for their longstanding commitment to advancing racial equity and healing for our region. Together, we can do MORE to achieve the promise to be an equitable Greater Atlanta for all. For more information on the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund, click here.


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The section under race on my mother’s birth certificate says white. That struck me because although my mom is fair skinned and probably could pass for a white woman, she was far from white. In fact, my mother is a third-generation Latino woman whose parents, my grandparents, migrated from Puerto Rico. If anyone were to pull race statistics from the 1940s to better understand demographic shifts related to something like housing policy or healthcare utilization, the numbers would be skewed. My mom relayed that during that time, the option to select “Puerto Rican” was not a possibility. Digging deeper, we discussed our culture and the experiences my grandmother had as a Hispanic woman navigating an environment that failed to recognize us as a people. Too inconsequential to be categorized on one of the most important documents you first encounter in life. As you can imagine, there was many layers to this story – some painful, and some laughed through to mask the shame of being invisible. Her story and her experiences, navigating her proximity to whiteness and how she felt about the erasure of our existence would never make it into anyone’s headline.

In my role as a leader at United Way of Greater Atlanta, I have been working to ensure that the voices and stories of community are an integral part of what informs our work and thinking around neighborhood change efforts. Resident stories are utilized as a tool to shape and drive solutions to many complex issues. And if we are to ensure the well-being of communities, we must consider each other’s lives and find ways to humanize its complexities. Otherwise, our failure to do so will create a power dynamic that reinforces what Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichiek, calls “the danger of a single story”. She tells us how deeply power is embedded in the act of storytelling. From “how they are told, who tells them, when they are told, to how many stories are told. How do we increase the opportunities that communities have to tell their stories? What do we miss when we leave out the experiences of whole populations? These are all important questions that should trigger us to persistently think about who gets to tell the story and who is missing. To address this gap in understanding, we partner with organizations like Canopy Atlanta who focus on resident storytelling.

Our investment in Canopy Atlanta is designed to help us achieve collective community change by scaling efforts that center community voice and create continuous learning exchanges between residents, community stakeholders and our philanthropic peers. United Way’s Brighter Future strategy, Resident Leadership and Learning is designed to uncover solutions through deep and empathetic listening and documentation of lived resident experiences. This has helped us in gaining an understanding of how our political and social systems at a pragmatic level, simply do not work for everyone. The bureaucracy imposed in the name of accountability or process misses the mark of who these services are intended to serve or frankly, designed to exclude. A community with deficient and lackluster social, political and economic systems will prevent us from reaching our goal to improve child well-being.

In true partner fashion, Mariann Martin with Canopy Atlanta will discuss how her organization’s work intersects with United Ways vison to expand and strengthen resident storytelling.

The importance of diverse voices and nuanced perspectives is what informs community engagement work at Canopy Atlanta. We believe story telling begins with people and their own voices. As we worked in Clayton County, we listened to the stories of Vietnamese immigrants putting down deep roots in Forest Park and the Hispanic population advocating for a more equitable policing approach. We heard from many voices – Black, brown, white, and immigrant – how they wanted a more transparent government and better food options. Each of these voices helped to tell the broader story of Forest Park.

In addition to listening, at Canopy Atlanta we equip communities to tell their own stories. We provide journalism training for community members and pair them to work with more experienced story tellers. What emerges out of this process is complex and nuanced and sometimes messy and beautiful. It is a picture of a community as they see themselves, not as they are seen. This process also allows residents to view their own communities differently. They are more aware of what is happening down the street, and sometimes they begin to attend neighborhood meetings or continue to write and work in their communities. Many times, the relationships that happen throughout the process are more important than even the story telling. As Darryl Holliday, cofounder at Chicago’s City Bureau notes, “Journalism isn’t just a career path, or a business, or a ‘pillar of democracy’; it’s the best tool we have to shape civic infrastructure and fuel the equitable revitalization of our communities.”

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