On April 18, almost 400 Bank Street supporters and community members gathered at the American Museum of Natural History for the 2018 Annual Dinner, a yearly event dedicated to raising awareness and support of the College’s work championing positive change in the field of education.
Titled “The First One Thousand Days of Life,” the celebratory event recognized Bank Street’s many contributions to improving learning for all children with a special focus on recent efforts to help support increased access to the high-quality child care experiences that offer infants and toddlers a strong and healthy foundation for future learning and social-emotional development.
The event honored Jeffrey I. Sussman, President of Property Group Partners and longtime Trustee at Bank Street College of Education. As a parent of School for Children and Graduate School of Education alumni and a current grandparent of students in the School for Children and Family Center, Mr. Sussman was recognized as a passionate proponent for using education as a tool for developing community-minded citizens and broader social change.
After a cocktail hour in the museum’s landmark Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, guests enjoyed a meal and the evening’s program in the iconic Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. After remarks by Dinner Co-Chair and Chair of the Board of Trustees Yolanda Ferrell-Brown, Bank Street’s President Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, took to the stage to share a powerful call for strengthening the care and education of our nation’s youngest children, noting that the first 1,000 days life provide a powerful window of opportunity for growth and development.
“In the time it will take me to read this sentence, more than 7 million new neural connections will be formed in an infant’s brain,” said President Polakow-Suransky. “These neural connections are the foundation of brain function and while genes provide the blueprint for neural connection, experiences determine how genetic instructions are executed. …Research has now made it crystal clear that an engaging environment and responsive relationships for infants and toddlers help accelerate brain development and that financial investments to support families and quality childcare at this critical stage return massive dividends over time.”
In his remarks, President Polakow-Suransky explored how nurturing, responsive relationships with caregivers support healthy brain development in children and help close the achievement gap—especially for infants and toddlers exposed to toxic stress from unstable home environments, exposure to violence, or neglect—and advocated for private and public funding to support early child care education. A transcript of his remarks is available here.
Dr. Robin Hancock, Director of the Guttman Center for Early Care & Education, Bank Street College, also took to the stage to highlight some of Bank Street’s important work with caregivers in New York City. Through a collaborative approach in local communities, the Guttman Center provides a free five-month integrated program of coaching visits and coursework to help practitioners strengthen their practice in working with families and caring for infants and toddlers. The curriculum helps practitioners understand the process of early child development; learn about brain development, toxic stress, and resiliency; develop skills to engage families; and create the nurturing and cognitively-rich environments that promote the healthy growth of young children.
“The majority of infants and toddlers in the United States are in some form of child care for most of their waking hours. What those of us who teach have known forever, and what researchers are now finding, is that the more opportunities for quality education and professional development early childhood educators have access to, the higher the quality of care for their infants and toddlers,” said Dr. Hancock. “This work is not easy, but it is possible, and it is vitally important. …I’m proud of how we are partnering with these caregivers and I’m eager to expand this work to other parts of New York City.” A transcript of her remarks is available here.
The evening was capped off by a warm and moving speech by honoree Jeffrey Sussman in which he reflected on Bank Street’s impact within his own family, the broader community, and our nation.
Through generous donations from community members and an on-site Grant-A-Wish call for support, Bank Street raised over $1.1 million to support the Bank Street Annual Fund and the Guttman Center.