Kids Need a Village


Running for an elected position has caused me to do a number of things. Preparing a public profile of one’s self is a strange exercise in reflection. I’ve looked at my professional life in education and almost ten years of work to try and determine where I may have been able to provide examples of impact. I looked not only to my school and to my students directly, but also my role as an actor within a community of children and adults still in need of guidance and support in making determinations about what it means to have a college education and career that hopefully lead to satisfactions in one’s professional life.

I was combing through some old articles online trying to find content that would help people understand me and some of what I had done in this regard. I came across a photo gallery from a career day we had done for our local school districts in both Jackson and Washtenaw counties. The purpose of this day was not to promote the college, but was really about letting kids discover careers in a meaningful way with industry experts and people who had dedicated their lives to the practice and study of their chosen field. When all was said and done, we had close to 800 students from a dozen or more districts in four counties (we had some come down from Ingham and Lenawee) who had a chance to talk to experts and professors about different careers.

In and of itself a great event, but as I look forward to possibly being able to contribute as a trustee on the Ann Arbor District Library Board, I look at this event through a slightly different lens. Internally there was a lot of work done to get 800 kids in and out of our college with meaningful career experiences. Outside of that though, there was also enormous coordination of external efforts. Bussing and coordinating logistics for hundreds of high school juniors and seniors was no small task for our local K-12 partners. There were scores of counselors, principals, teachers, bus drivers, and parents/guardians who all had to contribute in some way to make this happen. Additionally, we received tremendous support from our local Cradle to Career organization and our local College and Career Access Center. Many local industry partners gave their employees time to come and contribute. It became a great example of community support and coordination to the benefit our local kids. The focus of this endeavor was our high school juniors and seniors and the need for this type of experience for young people is huge. That said, this is the same concerted effort needed to support adults in our communities who may be working to improve or transition their lives into a new career.

Following the success of this event we immediately scheduled another for the coming year and have enormous interest so far. Additionally, we are working to recreate this event for adults who may be exploring post-secondary education for the first time or trying to transition their career. In addition to our schools and all the partners listed above, we have had our local manufacturing academy support our adult event through the sharing of information and advertising. It is no longer sufficient for any one agency who provides service to children or support to adults to operate in a silo. This is why organizations like the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) are so important to our communities.

The AADL is a point in our community where some of the silos that divide effort can be taken down and integrated in a way that allows community, educational, cultural, and industry actors to be integrated to the benefit of the whole. AADL continues to provide the physical and intellectual space where our arts, cultural, business, and educational agencies can achieve some measure of synergy and cohesion to the benefit of our kids and our community. The AADL and the benefit it provides all of us is truly emblematic of the village needed as we all continue to take on the challenges of a very complicated time.

Dr. Steven Simpson is currently the President of Baker College of Jackson and is seeking a position on the Ann Arbor District Library Board of Trustees in the 2016 election. Additional information about Dr. Simpson and his candidacy can be found at www.simpsonaadl.com. You can reach Dr. Simpson at trusteesimpson@gmail.com.