Henrietta Zalkind: One of the best cities to raise children


Henrietta Zalkind is executive director of the Down East Partnership for Children.


Down East Partnership for Children

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Recently, the USA Today released a story naming Rocky Mount as one of the 25 worst cities in the U.S. to raise children.

This ranking was based on the number of children in formal child care or preschool — regardless of quality — poverty and graduation rates. Unfortunately, articles like this do not paint a clear picture of the place we work and call home. I would like to offer five reasons why Rocky Mount is a great place to raise children.

1. Rocky Mount embodies a can-do spirit and is showing strong revitalization efforts. Economic development has increased with the renovation of the Douglas Block, the downtown streetscape and the continued renovation of the Rocky Mount Mills campus. Many historic downtown properties have been purchased and are being remodeled. Public investment in downtown has resulted in the nearly completed Rocky Mount Event Center that will serve as a multi-use facility that will create both momentum and jobs.

2. Our community was selected as one of eight places in the state to participate in the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. This coalition is called Twin Counties Read to Rise. This selection was based on a process which required collaboration among multiple community partners to focus on three areas: Summer Learning, School Attendance and School Readiness. This coalition actively supports strategies beginning at birth that put children on a pathway to grade-level reading by the end of third grade — a predictor of success in school and life.

3. Our children who are in formal early care are in a higher quality environment than ever before. Family support services are available to all through the Down East Partnership for Children. Before Smart Start came to Nash and Edgecombe counties, there was no coordinated early childhood system and the quality of care was low. Today, DEPC has been serving the community for 25 years and serves as a hub of resources for families and children 0-8. Many families in our community do choose Family Friend and Neighbor care, and those families are supported in a coordinated system that offers resources, support groups, play groups and learning opportunities, inside and outside 365 days a year.

4. We have a fabulous network of parks! There are more outdoor learning environments and places to play for children and families than ever before. Elementary school playgrounds are now available to the public during non-school hours and parks like DEPC’s Discovery Park are considered model outdoor learning environments that allow children and families to be physically active and learn year round.

5. Finally, Rocky Mount is a resilient city filled with diverse networks of churches, nonprofits, and businesses that are working together to overcome past obstacles and focused on brighter futures for all. Family-friendly work environments and housing that is much more affordable than the triangle will help us attract and retain a well-educated workforce and support a strong talent pipeline.

“We are doing good, getting better and on our way to greatness,” as our beloved colleague James Bellamy used to say. So, let’s find the list of great cities to raise children in and keep working to get on it.