As THINK Together matured, we observed other programs serving students at and around some of the same schools as us. These programs often operated in silos, rarely coordinated with each other, sometimes competed with each other, and were usually disconnected from the school day, even when operated by the schools or school district themselves.
THINK Together came to this understanding organically. But, it turns out we were not the first to have this insight. Those who worked with the California Healthy Start initiative in the 1990’s, or with community schools, or in organizations like the Harlem Children’s Zone, had similar insights. They discovered for children and youth to achieve their full potential, they need a holistic support system, preferably from cradle-to-career, that is outside of the school day but connected to high-quality schools.
Upper middle-class families provide this support system by making sure their children have high-quality health care, are read to early and often, have access to high-performing preschool and K-12 schools, youth sports, arts and music lessons. These children are exposed to multiple enrichment offerings throughout their childhood and youth so that they can have different learning opportunities and discover their passions.
Low-income children rarely have this system of support. THINK Together believes in a place like California where voters have approved robust amounts of funding for early childhood programs and after-school programs, and where the possibility for large-scale philanthropy exists, the potential exists to build an Ecosystem of Support around our schools on a statewide scale.
In the process of building an extensive system of Extended Learning Time programs in deeply concentrated areas in California, THINK Together has also built an infrastructure that can deliver strong and consistent programs on a large scale. This infrastructure includes best-in-class program experts, training and coaching staff, a human capital department with the capacity to recruit and support thousands of staff and volunteers, data collection systems and analysis capability, financial management and reporting systems, fund development, policy expertise and a strong values-driven culture.
This platform is now leveraged to scale Extended Learning Time programs, but it can also go deeper at the schools and in the communities we serve. Currently THINK Together has leveraged its platform to deliver the following programs: