Hundreds of Delawareans convened Monday to exchange ideas, celebrate progress, and launch the University of Delaware’s Partnership for Healthy Communities initiative at the Vision Coalition of Delaware‘s 10th Annual Conference.
From Clayton Hall on the University of Delaware campus, state leaders and educators collaborated and sought solutions to challenges facing the future of public education in Delaware. The conference, titled Strengthening Partnerships in Health and Education: Delaware and the Nation, encouraged attendees to explore the intersection of education and health.
Panelists ranging from Secretary of Education Susan Bunting to Westside Family Healthcare CEO Lolita Lopez discussed the social determinants of health–factors like socioeconomic status, education, the physical environment, employment, and social support–that impact access to quality healthcare and education.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. delivered the keynote speech, in which he urged attendees to take action against domestic abuse, violence against women, and gun violence.
The conference also served as an opportunity to check in on the progress of Student Success 2025, the 10-year plan published by the coalition last fall. The Vision Coalition’s Annual Report was released during the event Monday.
“We are realistic that things are not perfect—nor will they ever be,” said Bunting, a member of the Vision Coalition’s leadership team. “But as Delaware continues to navigate through a challenging budget climate, we in the education world are proud that we’ve been able to maintain or expand college access program, principal training programs, kindergarten Readiness Teams, developmental screenings, and language immersion.”
In addition to Biden, special guests included Delaware Secretary of Health and Social Services Dr. Kara Odom Walker, University of Delaware president Dennis Assanis, and chair of the Vision Coalition and president of Delmarva Power Gary Stockbridge. U.S. senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons spoke during the morning plenery, as did U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.
Kaamilah Diabaté, a senior at Howard High School of Technology, got the conference started with a rousing series of spoken word poetry that touched on many of the day’s themes, including poverty, violence, and toxic stress–and their impact on education. Diabaté earned first place recognition at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Communication Contest and the 19th Annual NAACP Essay Oratory Contest.
Following the plenary, a series of unique group conversations called “Idea Exchanges,” commenced. The conversations brought together education, government, nonprofit, and business leaders around a variety of topics, from innovative practices happening in classrooms around Delaware, to helping students achieve success in college and careers. Topics covered everything from “Building Effective Family-School Partnerships,” to “Community Solutions to Improve Literacy,” and “Removing Barriers to College Access.”
The University of Delaware officially launched its Partnership for Healthy Communities, which is led by Rita Landgraf. The university hosted a planning forum during the afternoon session. For more information, please email Matt Amis. Photos by Tom Nutter.