A Tremendous Thank You

Wow. Just wow.

If you have been involved in a part of the Safer Tomorrows team over the last five years or so, you’ll perhaps share that sense. Just wow.

Nobody involved in those first brainstorming meetings could have really imagined what seeds their ideas and energy were planting.

The course was simply to look at ways our community – all of Grand Forks county, eventually – could organize our organizational and professional and political resources and direct them to respond to a single, clear challenge: End or mitigate childhood exposure to violence.

The challenge was brought to our community from the US Department of Justice through a nascent program, Defending Childhood. It was an innovative, courageous and inspirational program that sought collaborations of care providers, politicians, first responders, crisis centers, the courts and more together in ways unique to each community.

The first phase, a planning grant, provided enough direction and resources to cement our local team and inspire further progress. Another two rounds of funding ultimately provided over $3M to our partners to initiate best practices, explore innovations, embed infrastructure and literally change the culture around the issues of childhood exposure to violence.

Through the Defending Childhood program, the Safer Tomorrows (the name came a short time later) team established a core strategy of ending or mitigating childhood exposure to violence through a mix of prevention, intervention and data collection (learning). The core team members were the City of Grand Forks, the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC), Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSS) and the Grand Forks Public School System.

The collaboration, however, quickly blossomed from these four to about a dozen to, ultimately, over 40 different organizations across Grand Forks County. It was one of 8 fully-funded test sites. Proudly, Grand Forks has the honor to carry this banner and to, hopefully, inform the work of others around the nation.

Over 265 community professionals and project staff participated in eleven committees, coalitions and working groups. This involved more than 185 meetings and over 1,700 combined attendees. 43 different schools are involved throughout Grand Forks County.

Through the thoughtful and thorough leadership of the Safer Tomorrows coordinator, housed at the CVIC, the Safer Tomorrows program partners navigated a path of exploration and determination to create something for our community, our children: A Safer Tomorrow.

Raising awareness of issues from bullying to mentorship, engaging classrooms in conversations from sexual assault to dating violence, preparing expectant mothers to opening arms to victims of violence, applying brain science (yes, brain science) to coaching young men in stinky locker rooms: These were some of the steps.

Declining numbers of bullying and recidivism of aggressors, stories of recovery, an infrastructure of intervention and response: These are marking our path.

The one constant that ran through the program and still does today is Hope. Hope inspired the project, motivated the partners and guided all steps.

In the “end”, we are changed. Our commitment resolved. Our faith in mission affirmed. Our children safer. Our tomorrow safer.

Wow. Just wow.