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Wheelock convenes global thought leaders to aid children and families

Posted by Chad O'Connor  August 6, 2013 11:00 AM

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Over 800 professionals—representing 5 continents from over 40 countries and 29 US states—in the fields of health, education and human rights convened in Boston recently, joining educators, human rights activists, philanthropists, and world leaders from across the social justice spectrum for the inaugural international conference—Global Challenges and Opportunities Facing Children, Youth & Families hosted by Wheelock College in honor of its 125th Anniversary.

The conference featured more than 160 thought leaders and experts who worked with participants exploring pressing issues affecting children, youth, and families. The urgency and unrelenting nature of the big issues addressed, which included: hunger, globalization, human trafficking, growth of technology, impact of media and commercialism and violence against women, brought together diverse leaders who were eager to explore innovative partnerships and promising practices. This was a convening to forge tangible results. Both participants and thought leaders left re-energized, having forged new relationships, gathered ideas and connected globally to keep the discussion and sharing of promising work moving forward.

Continuation of the work that begun at Wheelock College this past June remains a priority for Wheelock’s leadership who see the work prior to the conference, during and after as critically aligned with the institution’s mission and Lucy Wheelock’s vision of connecting across continents in order to build policy and pedagogy to meet the issues of the day.

"For the past 125 years, Wheelock College has remained unwavering in its commitment to the education and well-being of children and families. Today, more than ever, Wheelock is positioned to lead conversations designed to transform the lives of children, families and communities across the globe," said Jackie Jenkins-Scott, President of Wheelock College.

The following are but a few outcomes emerging from the success of this first ever in Boston gathering of thought leaders, activists, academicians and leaders from across the world:

Connections were forged. For example, Wheelock Chair and Professor of American Studies Gail Dines, whose work centers on women’s justice issues, connected with survivor of Child Sex-Slavery and activist Brook Bello, who served on one of the plenary panels, resulting in a powerful conversation on WGBH.

Funding for programs was identified. For example, Sovereign│Santander Bank’s philanthropic arm, Santander Universities, provided funding for the high-impact programs for Mattapan’s children, youth and families for the Mattahunt Community Center.

New collaborations were formed. Due to the nation of Qatar’s emerging focus on early childhood education, the Qatar Foundation will be partnering with Wheelock College to design and deliver a degree and professional development courses in early childhood education.

Creative solutions materialized. Wheelock faculty, whom already work globally on issues impacting children, youth and families committed to re-thinking programs, courses and their own scholarship in order to better realize the institution’s interdisciplinary approach strengthening the interaction between education, health, and human rights.

Additionally, Wheelock’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, Joan Gallos, announced the formation of a multi-media online journal – the Wheelock International Journal of Children, Families and Social Change. This tangible and lasting outcome of the conference will ensure that the conversations exploring, reflecting and working towards solutions on the intersection of the key conference themes across continents continue providing opportunity for further collaboration amongst global leaders and communities.

The City of Boston’s Mayor Menino, represented by Marie St. Fleur, offered a proclamation declaring June 19, 2013 Wheelock Day in honor of the institution’s 125 years of service to improve the lives of children and families.

"[Before I started my foundation] I would see good work over here and good work over there," said keynote Cherie Blair, who began her foundation in 2008 to help women build small and growing businesses in developing and emerging markets. "We must work across sectors and share not just our successes—which is easy—but our failures. Otherwise, we're not going to make big solutions to the big issues."

Wheelock College has challenged thought leaders, academicians, activists and others who joined this inaugural conference to keep the dialogues open, to work together to impact needed change, to use their creativity, passion and resources to further improve the lives of children and families around the world. Wheelock is stepping up to its own challenge creating Wheelock Global Causes, a web-based avenue for forging connections and instilling ideas beyond June 2013. The conference featured speeches by:

  • Deogratias Niyizonkiza, Founder of Village Health Works, who talked about the challenges of meeting the needs of the world's poorest citizens.

  • Simona-Mirela Miculescu, Romanian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Nations, who talked about the UN's progress toward fulfilling its Millennium Goals, which include halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, and providing universal primary education by 2015.

  • Emiliana Vegas, Chief of the Education Division at the Inter-American Development Bank, who said that making high achievement standards for students inform everything that teachers do would vastly improve education systems.

  • Ögmundur Jónasson, Minister of the Interior for Iceland, who addressed the issue of how government policies can work to build a vibrant, sustainable, and just society that promotes the well-being of all of its citizens.

  • Desh Deshpande, President and Chairman of Sparta Group LLC, who spoke about the role of philanthropic organizations and ways to link innovation and project relevance to create maximum impact.

  • Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, who spoke during the special awards celebration, International Partners in Leadership Awards for the Advancement of Early Childhood Education, on the impact of human rights violations, environmental degradation and corruption on investment outcomes.

To see video clips from the conference, as well as videos of the full Plenary Panels, visit

Learn more about the Conference at

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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