**UPDATE: Due to the global pandemic, COVID-19, the CAT Placemaking Course originally planned for June 8-26, 2020, will be postponed until summer 2021.**
Any venture’s success relies on its partnerships. The same can be said about Chattanooga As Text: Placemaking Course (CAT) that made its debut the summer of 2017. Girls Preparatory School
piloted the program to test curricular and pedagogical innovation and to offer opportunities to all age-appropriate girls in the Chattanooga area while partnering with mission-minded community members.
"The Chattanooga as Text summer course offers girls the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the richness of their city—its culture, history, geography, industry, and people. As a result, participants will discover the challenges of our city and design solutions," says Dr. Autumn A. Graves, GPS Head of School and cofounder of the CAT program. "People often talk about what is wrong in their city but are unwilling or unable to work to resolve the issues. This course teaches girls how to not only identify a problem but also build the empathy needed to want to be a part of the solution and design ways to solve it. These are life skills that will serve them well in any community they will one day be a part of."
After a rigorous review process, GPS was awarded a 1:2 matching $50,000 grant from The Edward E. Ford Foundation, with the directive to raise the additional $100,000 by December 31, 2019. The GPS Development team successfully raised the required funds from 14 individuals, foundations, and donor-advised funds. This is the fourth grant GPS has been awarded from The Edward E. Ford Foundation.
“In building on its already successful Chattanooga as Text program, Girls Preparatory School is deepening its commitment to community, reflecting its sense of the public purpose of a private school, and demonstrating its willingness to support entrepreneurial thinking,” says John C. Gulla, Executive Director of The Edward E. Ford Foundation. “These actions have inspired an impressive group of partners to join the school in an effort to expand and extend this demonstrably beneficial opportunity for GPS and other Chattanooga students.”
During the inaugural CAT course, an intensive three-week female entrepreneurship symposium, two GPS teachers and one program coordinator worked with 12 girls, using the Edney Innovation Center as homebase. True to the program’s name, much of the girls’ time was spent out in the community, where they met with architects, historians, engineers, regional planners, and social anthropologists as well as professors of geology, entrepreneurship/business, and GIS/environmental science.
At the conclusion of the course, each team delivered a public prospectus for a problem they observed to a panel of business and community leaders. As a result, participants expanded their personal contacts, learned about different perspectives, and gained a new set of lifelong skills. Some even went on to secure internships as a result of connections made through CAT.
“In United Way’s experience with equipping people for community problem solving, we have found students are a powerful and essential source for change. Their voice matters,” says Lesley Scearce, President/CEO of United Way of Greater Chattanooga. “They envision our community without the constraints that often bind adults in thinking and acting. They often surprise me with not only creativity, but also actionable solutions and gain valuable life skills in the process. In fact, some of our best interns came to us through the CAT effort. I am proud that these talented students will be on site in United Way’s HUB for Social Innovation, creating new solutions to some of our age-old problems.”
GPS was founded to provide a relevant education to prepare girls to be engaged citizens and volunteers in their communities; its founders used the city as part of their extended classroom. The CAT summer program provides GPS students an avenue into the city and extends who are their classmates.
For the summer 2020 CAT program, to be held June 8-26, GPS, Girls Inc., and Boys & Girls Club of Chattanooga will soon recruit and offer 16 full summer scholarships to rising 10th- and 11th-grade Chattanooga girls (four of whom will be GPS students). Participants will use the United Way’s new HUB for Social Innovation as its homebase.
“I am ecstatic that Girls Inc., and Boys & Girls Club have joined GPS in this important work,” Graves says. “Girls from all three organizations will be learning and working together in a way that no other program in Chattanooga supports. The relationships formed will transcend the summer, their schools, and their neighborhoods. These girls will be building sustainable connections that could initiate the change Chattanooga needs to realize its fullest potential.”
More information about recruitment and the application process will be available March 1 at GetYourMBD.com.
About Edward E. Ford Foundation: The Edward E. Ford Foundation’s mission is to improve secondary education by supporting U.S. independent schools and encouraging promising practices. The Foundation has long encouraged, and now requires, matching funds to be raised as a part of its application process so as to leverage even greater philanthropic support for independent schools. These matching grants now exceed an additional $110,000,000 in total support generated for NAIS schools.