Sussex County holds annual conference at Delaware Tech
By Savannah Swanson
Delaware Technical Community College’s Owens Campus hosted Sussex County’s Annual Today & Tomorrow Conference on Oct. 30, 2019, which aims to identify opportunities in Sussex County to promote economic prosperity, as well as pinpoint the area’s needs and stimulate action.
This year the conference focused on the topic of social mobility and how Sussex County can create a “more level playing field” for all who live in the area.
Delaware Tech’s president, Dr. Mark Brainard, gave opening remarks at the start of the conference and introduced keynote speaker Michelle Taylor, president and CEO of United Way of Delaware.
United Way provides children with access to academic support for early education success and provides young adults with college and career readiness programs.
Brainard is a United Way board member and has worked with Taylor through the organization’s partnership with the college.
“Delaware Tech is a very strong supporter of the organization and its mission,” Brainard said. “We know first-hand how committed Michelle and her team are to early education, financial stability, and college and career readiness, and we share that same focus here at Delaware Tech.”
During her speech, Taylor engaged with the audience through an open discussion, asking audience members what resources in Delaware they saw were making a positive change, and which resources they thought needed to be improved.
During the discussion, audience member Donald Clark brought up the importance of afterschool programs being available to children, especially in underprivileged communities.
Clark mentioned how he talked to the director of a local Boys & Girls Clubs and learned that many children are being raised by their grandparents because their parents are either incarcerated for drug related incidents or they are single parents who cannot afford to take care of their children on their own.
Clark said he believed that more funding needed to go towards the organization because it gives children access to educational programs outside of school, which is extremely important if they live in a household where parents are absent.
Taylor added that the Boys & Girls Club is extremely important to the community, and took a moment to call on legislators that were in attendance, urging them to fund organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, because many of them are underfunded and reaching maximum capacity.
“We are helping, but we could help a lot more for kids and families if we had the resources to do so,” Taylor said.
An additional point brought up by multiple audience members was the underutilization of Delaware’s libraries. Many felt that with their ample resources- free wifi, educational programs, job fairs- libraries are essential to increasing social mobility in Delaware, and should continue to be properly funded and promoted to Delaware citizens.
Following the open discussion, attendees attended breakout sessions of their choice. The sessions were designed to expand upon all the issues and topics brought up earlier during the keynote speech.
Session topics included Affordable Housing: A Key Part of Upward Mobility, Advancing Social Mobility Through Education & Training, Supporting Upward Mobility Through Transportation, and Future of Workforce that Fosters Mobility.
At the conclusion of the breakout sessions, attendees gathered together a final time to participate in a panel discussion featuring the leaders of the breakout sessions. The day ended with closing remarks from the Delaware Department of Labor Secretary Cerron Cade.