Children's Defense Fund News | April 2016

Marian Wright Edelman Receives Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal
This month, Marian Wright Edelman became only the second person to be honored twice with Thomas Jefferson Foundation medals—the highest honor the Foundation and University of Virginia bestow. On April 13, she received the Thomas Jefferson Medal of Citizen Leadership, and in 1992 she received the Thomas Jefferson Medal of Law. Edelman’s second special recognition comes at a major inflection point in our nation’s history as the country confronts continuing massive racial and economic equality. “I applaud the Thomas Jefferson Foundation for working hard to provide an honest accounting of this founding father who gave us our language of liberty and justice for all but contradicted those words by holding slaves throughout his lifetime. Only confronting the truth about our profound birth defects and struggling to overcome them with open eyes and hearts and deeds can make us all free and ensure America’s future. Our nation must move forward and not backward and every citizen must ensure that our children and grandchildren will inherit a country better than we found it,” said Edelman. In addition to being a Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal recipient, Edelman was the keynote speaker for the Founder’s Day Celebration at Monticello and also addressed students and the public at UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Watch Here: Marian Wright Edelman's speech at Monticello on April 13, 2016

CDF President in the News

The Lenny Interview: Marian Wright Edelman (04/08/2016)
Earlier this month, CDF Board Member and Child Advocate Jurnee Smollett-Bell published her interview with CDF President Marian Wright Edelman for The Lenny Interview.  Here’s how this riveting interview begins: "I recently came across an old African proverb, scribbled in one of my journals. It says, 'When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.' As adults, we often lose touch with our inner child, forgetting what it was like to grow up in a world powerless, a world where warring factions of elephants (and donkeys) are the ones making life-altering decisions for you. Who is on the front lines fighting for children, being their voice? Three words: Marian Wright Edelman."

Founder/President of Children’s Defense Fund urges churches to be there for children in need, Presbyterian Church USA (04/21/2016)
On April 21, CDF President Marian Wright Edelman spoke to a thousand child advocates at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days gathering in Washington, D.C. The best way to disrupt the cradle to prison pipeline, she said, is to be an advocate for children in need. She said America’s priorities about wealth and where our dollars go are not in line with helping those most in need, poor children and families. Together, we can create the change we want to see.

Spring Into Renewed Faith


We each need time to water our roots so our justice work to improve the lives of children can flourish. CDF's Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry at CDF Haley Farm is just the place to renew your spirit this July 18-22. Register today to join this Beloved Community of child advocates and discover new strategies, skills and effective models that will equip you in your faithful work to pursue justice for all children across the country. Here are some highlights you can look forward to:

Reserve your spot now. Discounts are available for two or more people registering together — bring your congregation members to help you spread justice for children in your community.

Department of Education Releases Resource on Improving School Climate
The Children’s Defense Fund believes improving school climates is essential to promoting positive outcomes for all children, particularly for our most vulnerable who are too often pushed out of school by harsh school climates and discipline policies.  Child advocates, government officials and school district leaders continue to work together to ensure all children across the country are equipped with the basic educational tools they need to succeed — including positive school climates. To assist school districts across the country, the U.S. Department of Education has released these free, first-of-their-kind adaptable tools to support enhanced learning environments for all students. The ED School Climate Survey (surveys) and Quick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements which help:

  • Foster and sustain safe and supportive environments that are conducive to learning for all students, 

  • Enable states, local school districts, and individual schools to act on reliable, nationally-validated school climate data in real-time, and 

  • Assist educators, administrators, and school system leaders in understanding and creating environments where every child can be successful.  

By improving school climate, schools lay the foundation for improving daily school attendance and high achievement by all students. Together we can help level the playing field and change the odds for success for vulnerable children across the country.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Children's Voices
The Children’s Defense Fund was thrilled that the U.S. Supreme Court, on April 4 in Evenwel v. Abbott, unanimously upheld the longstanding practice of drawing electoral districts on the basis of total population. The case had challenged that practice by recommending that only eligible voters be counted when drawing districts. We joined in a friend of the court brief in the case defending the total population practice as an important safeguard for voteless children and their parents who need and deserve representation. “Nonvoters have an important stake in many policy debates and in receiving constituent services. By ensuring that each representative is subject to requests and suggestions from the same number of constituents, total-population apportionment promotes equitable and effective representation,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion. CDF applauds the Supreme Court on their decision to ensure all children and families are fairly represented in their local districts, states and nationally. Learn more about the Evenwel vs. Abbott ruling.


Welcome to CDF-Minnesota, Bharti Wahi!
We are delighted to announce that on May 16, 2016 Bharti Wahi will be joining the Children’s Defense Fund as the new Executive Director of CDF-Minnesota. She brings 20 years of professional experience as an advocate in the nonprofit world and more than a dozen years in education: her strengths include strategic planning, program and project management, collaborations and community partnerships, and budget development and financial management. Bharti comes directly from the Greater Twin Cities United Way where she served as a Senior Program Manager of Reading By Third Grade, Women United Early Literacy and Women’s Financial Stability and Spotlight grant portfolios. Previously Bharti led the Children and Family Program for the Minnesota Literacy Council for five years, building the home visiting program and revising the parent engagement curriculum. “I am thrilled to serve with the Children’s Defense Fund,” said Bharti, “I am eager to continue to advance the hard-fought progress to change the odds for all of Minnesota’s children. Children’s education is my passion and I believe strong parent and community engagement is key to ensuring children thrive.”


CDF-CA Action Scholar Invited to White House
Sarai McKenzie, an 18-year-old artist, rapper, singer, writer, musician, and much more is a Youth Leader and Action Scholar with the Children’s Defense Fund - California as part of the Every Student Matters campaign. Sarai’s struggles with homelessness and the loss of family members had earlier negatively impacted her in school and in the community. Thanks to a strong support system and the healing dimensions of her advocacy work, Sarai is today consistently recognized for her positive role mentoring, encouraging and inspiring her fellow students. 

We’re proud of Sarai and excited for her to participate in the inaugural Brioxy White House Summit for Innovators of Color this weekend where she will meet with senior White House Officials, and represent CDF-CA’s Action Scholars Program and her community of Long Beach, CA on a panel to discuss the power of storytelling through spoken word, music and art. The Brioxy Summit, April 29-May 2, convenes 100 of the country's top young innovators of color. Learn more about Sarai’s story

Update from the First Class of CDF-Ohio Beat the Odds® Scholars


Today, life is good for De’Von Jennings. His early childhood was full of loss and abuse. His mother died when he was 3 years old. Abuse from his father and others followed and then Child Services got involved when he became suicidal at age 11. An English teacher in high school, Antonia Mulvihill believed in him and made a huge difference in his life. In 2012, he received the CDF Beat the Odds scholarship award and was also awarded Bill Gates and Horatio Alger scholarships.

His college years have been a time of opportunity, and De’Von has seized each one: A semester at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology as an exchange student, engineering internships including one with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and research under one of the leading transportation researchers, Dr. Xuesong Zhou, in traffic modeling. His paper on how to solve ride-sharing problems will be published soon. On May 11, he will proudly receive his bachelors of science in Civil & Environmental Engineering from Arizona State University and begin pursuing his PhD at the University of California Irvine in the spring of 2017. A special thank you to all of you who have been part of his caring community of adults. Please join us in sending congratulations and best wishes to an extraordinary young leader who is making the world better than he found it!

CDF Will Award 10 Beat the Odds® Scholarships to High School Seniors
On May 19, the Children’s Defense Fund will honor 10 extraordinary high school seniors at two Beat the Odds events in Texas and Ohio. The stories of these inspirational young leaders — who have overcome tremendous adversity to beat the odds stacked against them — remind us that behind each successful child there is at least one caring adult. Help celebrate this year’s five Houston area winners — Drew Bernard, Christine Egu, Taylor Garrett, Mikenzie Yates and Bontu Workineh at the 17th annual CDF-TX Beat the Odds awards luncheon presented by H-E-B at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Houston. You can also show your support for extraordinary Ohio high school seniors — Ebi Reyes Leiva, Darrius McLean, Journae’ Morris, Linda Ransom and Emily Wilcox at the CDF-OH Beat the Odds awards celebration at the Westin Columbus. If you do not live in Texas or Ohio, you can still support this wonderful program by making a generous donation and sharing the success of this program with others in your network.

Catch up on Marian Wright Edelman’s April Child Watch® columns as she addresses the ongoing struggle for equality for people of color and the poor. Guaranteed to stimulate, inform and inspire you to take action for our most vulnerable children and families across the country.

Recognizing All of America’s S/Heroes

End Summer Child Hunger Now

Income Inequality: The Housing Struggle

The Time is Always Right to Do Right

Thank you for your continued support and dedication to the Children's Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission.

Please share our message and mission with your networks. Encourage your family, friends and neighbors to donate to CDF so we can continue to level the playing field for all children across the country. Pleas join our mailing list to stay informed about our work.

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