Early Years

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Another 'Stand for Children': Getting young children ready to succeed in school is the theme of this year's Stand for Children Day, the June 1 event in which local advocacy groups organize activities intended to raise awareness about the needs of children.

More than 1 million people are expected to participate in local events; an additional 200,000 are expected to take part via the World Wide Web.

The "ready to learn, ready to succeed" theme focuses on four goals--health coverage for uninsured children; more money for affordable, high-quality child care; safe and productive after-school activities; and schools that have small classes, well-trained teachers, high standards, and involved parents.

Since the fatal school shootings last month in Jefferson County, Colo., several local organizers have decided to add a violence-prevention theme to their planned events.

For example, in Portland, Ore., where Stand for Children's executive director, Jonah Edelman, lives, a street fair will include a toy trade-in: When children turn in toy guns or other violence-related toys, they'll receive a book from Scholastic Inc.

Other activities focused on preventing youth violence include the distribution of trigger locks for firearms and rallies for gun-control laws.

The first Stand for Children event was organized in 1996 by the Washington-based Children's Defense Fund. Marian Wright Edelman, Jonah Edelman's mother, is president of the CDF. More than 300,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington for that event. ("Children's Rally Spurs Plans for Action, Draws Partisan Attacks," June 12, 1996.)

By the next year, the focus had shifted to community-based events throughout the country.

Mr. Edelman moved from Washington, where Stand for Children is based, to Oregon late last year to help set up local chapters in that state and to gain experience as a grass-roots organizer. Similar efforts are taking place in Maryland and Tennessee.

"This creates a real learning opportunity for the whole organization," he said recently.

As an organization, Stand for Children has also undergone some changes. It is now a national membership group, in addition to advising local chapters on how to plan annual events. So far, roughly 1,000 members have signed up throughout the country.

"This is the outlet we needed for connecting with people," Mr. Edelman said of the new structure. "While the once-a-year thing is incredibly important as an awareness tool, it isn't going to effect the kind of change that we think really needs to happen."

--Linda Jacobson [email protected]

Vol. 18, Issue 37, Page 5

Published in Print: May 26, 1999, as Early Years
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