Inspiration for the Collaborative stems from Discover Together. Developed in collaboration with the Yale Child Study Center, Sewanee: The University of the South, Tracy City Elementary School, and local partners in 2012, Discover Together is a collection of programs operating in Grundy County, Tennessee that offer resources to increase social connectedness, build pride in community, and utilize the power of narrative across generations.
Discover Together started with a small-scale attempt to build resilience through a summer camp that paired community field trips with books, focusing on social connectedness and developing narrative skills. While the community received the summer camp with great enthusiasm, it was clear that there was a need for more.
Evolving with the community’s strengths and needs, Discover Together has now grown, supported in part by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Today, programming includes a summer camp tied to literacy and designed to build pride in place; a family co-op for children and caregivers with a literacy- and place-based curriculum that addresses the development of the whole family; an after-school learning lab; a visual narrative program; and a community ambassadors program that trains community members in early childhood development, family engagement, and Adverse Childhood Experiences awareness. Combined, these programs work towards building support networks and mitigating chronic family stress.
The Community Ambassador program has launched an initiative to reduce chronic absenteeism, ensuring that children stay in school, surrounded by environments in which they can connect with others and gain the important academic and social emotional skills that prepare them for life. This program, funded through a grant from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, focuses on using absenteeism as an indicator of stress in the family and is exploring the best ways to address those root causes.
Serving as a model for further innovation, Discover Together has garnered recognition (Strengthening Supports for Young Parents and Their Children) for its promising approach to addressing rural poverty in a multi-generational way. This work is now being extended through the Collaborative as a way to address poverty in both rural and urban settings, reaching more children and families, having a lasting impact in more communities, and improving children’s academic and mental health outcomes.