On Tuesday morning, nearly 200 education leaders, elected officials, and community partners gathered at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to celebrate the accomplishments of the Chattanooga 2.0 coalition through the first two years of work in Hamilton County. Attendees heard from three panels on the focused efforts in early childhood learning, K-12 education, and talent development.
“Since the inception of Chattanooga 2.0, the community has really rallied around our children and the need to provide access to high-quality education and opportunities, not only for their future, but for the future of Hamilton County,” said Jared Bigham, Executive Director of Chattanooga 2.0. “We are thrilled to be here celebrating the accomplishments thus far and looking forward to the work ahead as we continue striving towards our two bold goals.”
Chattanooga 2.0’s two bold goals are to double the number of postsecondary degrees and credentials earned by Hamilton County graduates each year and to increase the overall percentage of adults in Hamilton County with a college degree or technical training certificate to 75% by the year 2025.
Panelists at the celebration shared perspectives from a regional, state, and national context on the 4 A’s of Chattanooga 2.0: Align priorities, Amplify the message, Accelerate strategies, and Agile innovation.
A long list of accomplishments was touted to attendees, including the launch of the Chattanooga Basics hospital visitation program, the newly instituted Camp K summer program for entering Hamilton County kindergartners, the launch of 19 Future Ready Institutes in 13 high schools this year, special education advocacy efforts, and the impactful work being done in the Opportunity Zone.
During the early childhood panel discussion, Margie Wallen, Director of Policy Partnerships and National Policy, Ounce of Prevention, discussed the importance of early learning and the cradle-through-career work being done in Hamilton County.
“To capitalize on a child’s developmental gains, we need to start early with continuous experiences that promote their development over time,” said Wallen.
“Chattanooga has laid a critical foundation for cities and counties across the state,” said Jenny McFerron, Director of Strategy and Engagement, Tennessee College Access and Success Network, during the postsecondary and talent development panel.
While coalition members celebrated their successes, the magnitude of the task at hand and the determination and grit of those in the room to rise to the challenge and transform our community was the clear message.
Robin Cayce, Director of Programs for Chattanooga 2.0, highlighted the importance of the ongoing efforts.
“Children being born today in Hamilton County will have a different experience than those who came before them thanks to the collective impact work being done by our coalition members. It is up to us to ensure their access to resources and opportunities continues to grow as we work towards building the smartest community in the South.”