As you may already have heard, Providence has been selected from among 305 cities across the nation as the $5 million grand prize winner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge. Our proposal, "Providence Talks," is an innovative initiative to improve the vocabularies of preschool-age children throughout our City by measuring and rapidly increasing the number of words spoken in their households.
This is an honor for which our city can be exceptionally proud. Providence Talks will have a big impact on the well-being of our young people. Winning this prize is also a testament to the collaboration of so many talented and energetic members of our community in Providence.
First, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Mayor Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies for this investment in our children. Without Mayor Bloomberg’s visionary leadership, passion for innovation and belief that city halls are the creative laboratories of the nation, we would not be able to proceed with our plan to enrich the lives of Providence children.
I also want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the dynamic team responsible for our win and the national attention that comes with it.
In the Mayor’s Office, Deputy Chief of Staff Arianne Lynch, Deputy Policy Director Toby Shepherd and Senior Education Adviser Angela Romans worked tirelessly to create a detailed proposal for Providence Talks that Mayor Bloomberg called "a new model of early childhood education that is direct, simple and fundamentally revolutionary."
We are thankful to the Colorado-based LENA Research Foundation for helping Providence harness the technology at the heart of Providence Talks.
Locally, we are thankful to Rebecca Boxx of the Providence Children & Youth Cabinet for playing an invaluable role in helping design our application. We also thank Elizabeth Burke Bryant and Leanne Barrett of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, Tammy Camillo of Bright Stars and Leslie Gell of Ready to Learn Providence for all of their time editing and providing thoughtful feedback on our application.
Thank you to the State of Rhode Island’s Department of Health whose home visitation services will be a key partner in implementing this idea. Thank you to David Caprio and the staff at Children’s Friend, John Kelly and the staff at Meeting Street and Margaret Holland McDuff and the staff at Family Service of Rhode Island for their help refining our application and for their willingness to partner on behalf of Providence’s young people.
We extend a very special thank you to Brown University President Christina Paxson and Dr. Kenneth Wong who have graciously offered Brown’s world-class researchers to serve as independent evaluators of Providence Talks. We are also grateful for Professors Susan Zoll of Wheelock College and Benjamin Mardell of Harvard University who provided additional edits to our application.
I especially want to thank Lilibett Padilla and Shirly Castellanos who participated, along with their children, in a pilot demonstration of Providence Talks. I am grateful for their thoughtful feedback and excitement to be a part of a new idea.
Lastly, I would like to thank the Full Service Community Schools at Sackett Elementary School for volunteering to host Providence families for our parent-level focus group.
This talented team of individuals who shaped the Providence Talks proposal is one of the reasons I have great confidence in a bright and promising future for our City of Providence.