Here's What's Bringing Our Partners Hope

Our partners share the inspiration from 2023 that they're carrying into a new year.

Partner combo 2023

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we reflect on 2023, Dr. King’s words especially resonate. It has been a year of profound global complexities and loss — as well as stories of courage in the face of uncertainty. Because this spirit of resilience and moving the work forward is infused in the work of all our partners, we wanted to take a minute to hear where many of them found inspiration as we move into a new year.

From youth voice to global change and policy, here is how a handful of Bezos Family Foundation partners answered the question: What is one thing bringing you hope as you reflect on your work in 2023? 

—John Deasy, Bezos Family Foundation President

partner-header youth

Rachel Belin, Kentucky Student Voice Team, Managing Partner

In especially challenging times, I draw comfort and inspiration from young people pushing for more just and democratic schools and communities and exemplifying the empathy they hope to see in the rest of the world.

Andrew Fuligni, UCLA Center for the Developing Adolescent, Co-Executive Director

The continued strong desire of youth to contribute to their families, friends, and communities and improve their social worlds.

Kai-ama Hamer, ParentCorps, Director

Every day, I wake up firmly rooted in love and my own ability through my work, to bring good into the world. I cannot control what happens across the world, across the country or across the street, but I can control the good I will do, each day, with my team, for the educators, families, and children I interact with, and that brings me the greatest amount of HOPE! In the face of difficult times, I lean on the certainty that things will eventually get better and that keeps me joyful, no matter what.

David Hersh, Character Lab, CEO

What gives me the most hope is the momentum behind increasing the role youth voice plays in the selection, design, and implementation of everything that affects youth. As we make it easier and more fruitful to engage youth, we are on our way to making youth voice a routine feature of their experience, rather than an exception.

Eric Liu, Citizen University, CEO

What brings me hope are the catalytic young people we work with, train, and learn from in communities around the country. They are not stuck in binaries, they are not fatalistic, and they have great civic imagination.

Suzanne McCormick, YMCA of the USA, President and CEO

As an organization that engages more than six million young people every year, the Y finds great hope in their optimism for the future. Recent polling shows that the vast majority of Gen Z members believe they have a great future ahead of them, and we know they have the power to turn that belief into reality for the benefit of us all.

Jean Paul Ntezimana, Search For Common Ground, Program Officer

Activities in 2023 have built confidence in the hard to reach and marginalized youth members of the deprived communities, building community resilience and fighting isolation and support the young people to express themselves about local and national development and well-being issues, contributing ideas for positive change in the areas covered by Youth Talk project, based on a sustainable ground set by the project through the collaboration among the youth, the local and national leadership as well as the community members.

Adrián Pedroza, Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, National Executive Director

In 2023, Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations across 43 states that are having a positive impact and creating change in their communities. These same organizations bring us hope, motivation, and reassurance that we all collectively impact many lives.

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Shanika Gunaratna, ParentCorps, Manager of Strategic Partnerships

When I reflect on our work in 2023, I think about being in the trenches with colleagues and leaning on their wit, creativity, and vision as fuel when I ran low on my own. I feel excited and fortunate to continue ParentCorps’ work, to transform the early education experience for children and families nationwide, for another year and keep leaning on these nourishing, collaborative relationships along the way.

Michelle Sioson Hyman, Raising a Reader, Senior Vice President

I am hopeful for the power of partnership. As we deepen a few existing partnerships and expand new relationships, I am grateful for our collective efforts in recognizing that together we can serve children and families even better.

Lily James Olds, TED Fellows, Director

Reading these words from TED Fellow Alicia Chong-Rodriguez brought me hope: “TED Fellows always reminds me, all over the world incredible people are doing incredible things to build our world and our future.

Mia Tuan, UW College of Education Dean, College of Education

For years, the UW College of Education and our partners have dreamed with and planned a space shaped by community needs and voice. This dream is now becoming a reality through the Rainier Valley Early Learning Campus, and a hopeful example of how to create authentic community partnerships that build thriving communities.

Adeola Whitney, Reading Partners, CEO

I am filled with both hope and pride when I zoom out from the day-to-day work and get a complete picture of how many people from various walks of life are generously committing their time, talent, and treasure to help Reading Partners pursue a future where educational equity is a reality for all students. When I look at the diverse range of volunteers, donors, community and school partners, board members, staff, AmeriCorps members, and students and families, all making meaningful contributions to the pursuit of our mission, I very much see the incredible power of community and the positive, lasting impact it can have on both our youngest generation and the world they will inherit.

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Melissa Bode, Parents as Teachers National Center, Vice President, Philanthropy

The inclusion of doula services in our home visiting program continues to afford pregnant people of color an active role in creating a joyous birthing experience that reduces the potential for injury or death.

Laurie Brotman, NYU Langone Health, Bezos Family Foundation Professor of Early Childhood Development; Director, Center for Early Childhood Health and Development

We now have strong evidence from our research that school systems CAN change to engage and support children and families of color. This gives me great hope for our future AND as a country we have a tremendous amount of work to do to ensure that all children thrive.  

Noelle Colome, Raising a Reader, Director, Development

The partners who implement our programs across the nation share wonderful stories from the field throughout the year about children and their families whose lives are made brighter because they can look forward to sharing Raising a Reader’s Red Book Bag full of diverse books together at home each week!

Twylla Dillion, HealthConnect One, President and CEO

The motivation and commitment of community-based birth workers has brought me hope. Despite a rapidly changing funding landscape, they continue to support their communities as new members are born.

Cathy Gorn, National History Day, Executive Director

It was so encouraging to see how many middle and high school students chose historical topics to learn about the culture and history of others. And, to see how many students chose to shine a light on their own histories, such as Native Alaskan students who researched the history of the Unangax̂ people.

Mónica Guevara, Save the Children, Technical Expert, Education

Our greatest hope lies in the long-term impact of our work. Sharing Vroom with parents and caregivers of indigenous children this year has increased equity in access to early childhood development opportunities for children, regardless of their culture. Together, we are contributing to a future where children are safe, healthy, and educated.

Deborah Leong, Tools of the Mind, President and Co-founder

The power of creating a community of learners helping children to become self-regulated learners and transforming the classroom into a place where learning thrives is reflected not just in the way teachers describe their classrooms but also in the data showing child growth and achievement. BFF’s long-term, visionary funding enabled us to create innovations to support teachers, families and children leading to the creation of this community.

Margaret McConchie, Facing History & Ourselves, Senior Grants Writer

In an increasingly complex and challenging world, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed or hopeless, leading us to disengage from social and civic participation. But here at Facing History, we have hope. Our approach to teaching and learning encourages us all to remain present and engaged, seeking hope for ourselves and others, and applying that hope to create a better world.

Frances Messano, NewSchools Venture Fund, CEO

Moving into 2024, I’m leading with optimism. This is arguably the most challenging education landscape we’ve seen in decades. Despite the headwinds, NewSchools is undeterred in our pursuit of a system that keeps its promise to all young people, because we have seen so many bright spots of what’s working in education. We are consistently inspired by the visionary and courageous leadership of innovators across our portfolio.

Cailin O’Connor, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Senior Associate

I feel hopeful when I think about the passion and creativity that parent leaders are bringing to early childhood work all around the country. Parents are acutely aware of what isn't working well in their communities, and they have great ideas to fix those problems — and when they feel respected and supported, they will show up and bring their friends and neighbors and create real, transformative change.

Joel Rose, New Classrooms, Co-Founder and CEO

While the pandemic has resulted in devastating learning losses for our nation’s students, it has also spurred a new level of open-mindedness to innovation. There is a window opening, especially with AI, that can help schools to finally address the unique needs of each student.

Barbara Wilder-Smith, Tools of the Mind, Executive Director and Co-Developer

We have great hope for the future as we see growing evidence of the long-term positive outcomes of preschool education, highlighted in two recent studies referenced here, that show a strong relationship between high-quality preschool, later enrollment in college, and civic engagement. As we look forward to 2024, this reinforces our ongoing commitment to empowering teachers to empower young children by enabling them to develop the foundational self-regulation, socio-emotional and academic skills for school and life success. 

Lauren Sylling, National Constitution Center, Vice President of Strategy and Development

This past year, the National Constitution Center’s educational resources and programs have taught students how to think like constitutional scholars. This practice has empowered a diverse set of students from across the country to ask not what the government should do but what it constitutionally may do, and to practice civil dialogue as they examine difficult issues from history and today from multiple perspectives.

Emily R. White Hat, American Indian College Fund, Vice President, Programs

The strength, resiliency, and confidence of Indigenous students and youth at all levels of education bring me hope.

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David Batts, Council for a Strong America, Senior Manager, Strategic Planning and Development

Council for a Strong America and our allies successfully persuaded policymakers across the ideological spectrum to turn science into support for early childhood policies and investments, even in contentious and divisive environments. Our ReadyNation, Mission: Readiness, and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids members, in close collaboration with partners, cut through the discord by connecting the research on child development, education, and health to the strength of the economy, national security, and public safety building broad, bipartisan commitment to long-lasting policy change.

Alejandro Gibes de Gac, Springboard Collaborative, Founder and CEO

A comparative evaluation commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Education concluded that Springboard is “by far the most cost-effective tutoring model.” Another study showed that parents can be as effective as teachers in tutoring kids. This gives me hope that Springboard can help districts mobilize families to accelerate learning recovery even while ESSER funding recedes.

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Tufts University, Director of CIRCLE

Earlier this year we relied on developmental and learning science to put the decision-making role in teachers’ hands in a highly consequential initiative that took courage and faith because it is unusual. Teachers are owning that role and creating something magical, something more meaningfully impactful than anything I've seen in a long time!

Anne Hedgepeth, Child Care Aware® of America, Chief of Policy

It's encouraging to see more people coming together to improve our child care system so it works better for kids, families, and providers. By pushing for policies that put more money into child care, we have the opportunity to shape a brighter future for all communities.

Ralph R. Smith, Campaign for Grade Level Reading (CGLR), Managing Director

CGLRs bet on broad-based stakeholder coalitions as engines for sustaining change initiatives is paying off. As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, these local coalitions are staying the course, affirming their commitments, and emerging as reservoirs of resilience and drivers of recovery.

Kathy Thornburg, University of Missouri, Professor Emerita and Director, Institute for Professional Development  

Appropriate services and policies will support young children, families, and early childhood professionals so they will thrive in today’s world.

Tania Villarroel, UnidosUS, Senior Policy Analyst

Seeing our Early Learning Nation partnerships strengthen during 2023 fills me with hope that collective action can drive revolutionary change for Latino infants, toddlers, and their families. Working together, we’ll strengthen home visitors’ capacities to support families while championing the incredible potential of dual language learners.

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Kriste Dragon, Pahara Institute, Chief Executive Officer

The Pahara network, now over 1,000 leaders, continues to bring us hope for what’s possible to ensure every child is prepared to lead a free and fulfilling life. Now more than ever, we are committed to growing our Fellow community and designing even more transformational experiences that support our leaders’ vitality for years to come.

Hatim Eltayeb, African Leadership Academy, CEO

All of our most pressing problems require bold collective action to address. I take heart from young people’s eagerness for community, and lives of shared purpose.

Vince Meldrum, Earth Force, President and CEO

The encounters I’ve had with young people this year, from Trinidad to Tokyo, have been a source of great hope. Their unwavering resilience and passionate activism, particularly in addressing systemic challenges like climate change, inspire confidence in me that a future driven by meaningful participation is possible.

Logan Smalley, TED-Ed, Founding and Executive Director, TED-Ed

Billions of young people throughout the world are overflowing with curiosity, creativity, and potent ideas on how to make the world a better place. When I pause and reflect on that fact, and really let it sink in, I feel nothing but tremendous hope and excitement for our shared future.

Emily Zemke, CAMFED, Chief Development Officer

Hearing the stories of girls and young women across Africa who are reached by our programs is a profound source of joy and inspiration. Every girl supported by CAMFED through school, will support another three girls when she completes, and witnessing the opportunity that unlocks — the hope it ignites — is an antidote to the despair and oppression evident elsewhere in the world today. It is the best side of humanity.

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Mariel Benjamin, Mount Sinai Parenting Center, Directors of Programs

Each year, it feels as though it gets easier and easier to convince people of the need, the value, and the possibility of our endeavors. That brings me great hope for the future.

Catherine Monk, The Center for the Transition to Parenthood, Columbia University, Director, Center for the TtP

The energy, innovation, and communal validation generated during our cross-sector meetings identifying what we can do to improve beginning parenting in the U.S. for all parents, and tomorrow’s children.

Tanya Munroe, Centering Healthcare Institute, Director, Partnerships

Every clinic I talk to that had to stop offering Centering group prenatal pediatric care during the pandemic is excited to restart. After so long being isolated it is so good to be back in community with each other.

Carrie Quinn, Mount Sinai Parenting Center, Pediatrician and Executive Director

Meeting so many healthcare professionals who are willing to work harder, continuously learn, and overcome barriers because they are so deeply committed to helping children flourish.