When I came to Joplin in 2008, it wasn’t long before I got a call from one of Joplin’s caring teachers who wanted to visit with me about the reality of the children in Joplin. She shared with me a number of heart wrenching stories about the kids she worked with in her classroom. Kids from impoverished situations lacking food, clothing, and other basic needs that most of us take for granted. Kids that, due to circumstances out of their control, came to school every day with worries on their mind that made learning a secondary issue in their lives. I remember at the time telling her we would figure something out.

Not long after, the community came together to help us solve that particular challenge. The end result of that effort was a framework of support that helps to ensure that no child in Joplin goes without. I am very proud to say Bright Futures was born in Joplin, Missouri and even more proud of the partnerships and relationships that have developed in our community to sustain the work long term.

Today, what started in Joplin, now impacts children in 37 communities in 7 states supporting the education and well-being of nearly 180,000 children…and growing. It has become a shining example of what happens when good people come together to sit at the same table to do what’s right by our kids for the right reasons.

joplin operation college boundIt did my heart good today to see how far we have come. The attached pictures are of our Joplin Schools’ elementary kids at the second annual district-wide kick off of “Operation College Bound” this morning at Missouri Southern State University…one of our many great community partners. I remember a time when our conversations were mostly around high school graduation. Today a high school diploma is an expectation we have for our kids, and the conversation has shifted to setting goals beyond high school.

I’m so thankful for Joplin teachers Libbie Burd and Jennifer Statler who developed the concept and brought it to Columbia Elementary School as well as the dozens of Bright Futures Joplin partners who stepped up to make this great program possible just a few years ago. You continue to build doors for so many of our kids who before could only look out windows. THANK YOU!!!!